Do you know when you are being sold to? I would guess that you probably assume that you do. Some sales tactics are very obvious and over the top. Those are easy to catch. Most of us know better than to fall for those. Right?
The world of marketing is not a world that most of us have much insider knowledge of. Oh we know what marketing is. We see a commercial and we recognize that it is an ad. Even within our television shows, most of us recognize product placement nowadays:
There is a lot of advertising in this world that isn’t as blatantly obvious though. It’s not necessarily shady or even unethical…it’s just incredibly effective. So effective that you might not even be aware that you are being pitched to.
Let’s think of a few examples of less than obvious advertising:
- Coupons-Okay, most of us know that this is a form of obvious advertising…but how often do we really perceive coupons as little dashed line boxed advertisements?
No, generally we are more focused on the money saving aspect of coupons. When you look at a coupon your eyes don’t see an ad, they see a discount. Combine a coupon with a sale and get a product for super cheap? Sign me up!
Except now that you’ve had it for free, you pledge your love to the product and you will even dare pay full price for it (even with a mark up!). Advertising really doesn’t get more effective than that!
- Product Placement in our Media-Oh we definitely know it’s out there lurking in our favorite movies and radio shows, but do we really always catch it for what it is?
Sometimes a quick pan of the camera or a small slip in the conversation is all it takes.
The power of suggestion is limitless, so don’t overestimate your ability to fall prey to this kind of advertising. Even the more obvious, at times downright hilarious, instances of product placement in media carry powerful messages. They associate their product with a time that we laughed and felt enjoyment. Next time you see that bag of Doritos, you might just pick it up because you recall the last time you saw it, you were happy.
Associating warm and fuzzy feelings with a product can drive up sales exponentially.
- Free Stuff-From timeshare retreats to freebies you sign up for through my own website…it’s all a type of marketing. Companies wouldn’t give their products away for free if they weren’t receiving something of value in exchange.
Maybe the freebie just signs you up for more direct advertising. Perhaps the freebie is a part of a greater product and once they get you using their bare bones free version…you realize you simply can’t live without the whole $59.95 package.
Regardless, much like coupons, the free part hooks you and you are much more likely to make a purchase.
- Excerpts-You get to the end of a great book, and all of a sudden you find the first chapter of another book. Usually it’s another book from the same author, but not always. This is advertising plain and simple. They want you salivating over that snippet they gave you. Anxious and demanding more more more! What seems like a nice gesture, is actually brilliant marketing.
Excerpts aren’t always in books. You’ll find excerpts all over the internet, in print media…even excerpts of brand new shows on TV which move you so strongly that you feel compelled to program your DVR.
Also known as teasers, this type of advertising is very effective because if done right, you can spin something that hasn’t even been completed yet. Build a following of fans before the book even hits the publisher, the TV show even finishes the pilot or the movie is even made!
- Our Apparel-Nike, Old Navy, Gap, Abercrombie, Reebok…the list goes on and on. So much of what we wear are direct advertisements for the companies that made them. To some people, that is the appeal. They enjoy the prestige of others knowing they are wearing name brand apparel. Others though, either don’t care or don’t think about it.
Regardless, your daughter’s Minnie Mouse sweatshirt endorses Disney.
Your husband’s Astro’s ballcap endorses the Astro’s.
So many of us are walking billboards and don’t even realize it, don’t care or shrug it off as team pride or brand snobbery. Regardless, the minute you step out the door in your Spongebob sweatpants, you become a walking billboard for Nickelodeon.
Is this bad?
Yes and no. I think on one hand, it opens up the window of possibility to some that they might not be as immune to advertising as they originally suspected. Self awareness is always a really great thing. Knowing that you are susceptible to less than direct advertising can teach you to keep your guard up. If you are less likely to fall prey to indirect advertising, you are more likely to keep your wits about you when making purchasing decisions.
Make an informed decision based on tee shirt quality, not what brand name is written across the chest.
Choose the shoes that fit you best, not the ones that everyone else has (right? I mean they said everyone else has them on 30 Rock…so I must be the only loser without!).
Basically, make your own decisions!
I don’t think indirect marketing is inherently evil however. Nowadays, to market to us, brands need to be the loudest voice in the room. We are so bombarded with stimuli coming from every single possible direction, that to be heard, a brand needs to be front and center.
They know we all fast forward commercials nowadays, so they jump into the plots of our shows. They know that when we finish that book, we have a million other choices, why not give us a teaser to keep us coming back for more? They know that they released a new laundry detergent formula at the same time as all of their competitors, so why not give us a freebie and get us to try theirs FIRST.
I don’t fault brands for trying to get their products to us. I love all the freebies, and I love seeing sneak peaks of movies and books I might be interested in. In all honesty, even though The Biggest Loser has essentially become unwatchable to me due to all of the product placement, for the most part I don’t even mind a well placed product pitch.
What it means is we need to accept personal responsibility.
When you actively make a decision, you are taking responsibility for that decision to the extent of your knowledge. If you are unaware of the different ways advertising plays a part in your life, you might be able to place some blame on the media and brands in particular for marketing to you without your consent or knowledge. The problem with placing blame and financial woes on some other entity other than yourself is that it is merely a scapegoat. You know your budget. You know what you can and can’t afford. You also understand (I hope) that a brand name doesn’t necessarily mean a better product.
Part of being an informed consumer is knowing when your opinion might potentially be being swayed by outside agendas.
No one is out to get you. You know when you give a company your email address, they are going to use it. Same with your phone number and your address.
Now don’t get me wrong, brands definitely involve themselves in shady marketing. I’m not going to claim that certain companies don’t bend the rules and create unfair advantages for themselves. They certainly do!
Indirect marketing does not mean that a company is being unethical however. It’s just a different kind of advertising. Recognize it, accept it and move on. You are more powerful than any advertising campaign thrown your way. I promise.
Have you come into contact with any indirect marketing nowadays that swayed your interests one way or another? I’d love to hear about it!