While I was studying broadcasting, one of my instructors told us: “Once you work in the industry, you’ll never be a regular consumer of radio again.”
He meant that every splice and edit, every modification of sound, and how the talent is used to create a product will be analyzed by a student of broadcast much differently than anyone else. Our program included a mandatory overview of television, journalism, and marketing. What’s more, I had taken extra courses on marketing and film before even starting college full time.
I was ruined.
I couldn’t watch movies with my friends without being production-minded. I could call out editing spoilers and come to conclusions about how the art direction utilized lighting and costuming to create certain effects. Instead of just enjoying the story and the performance of the actors, I felt as though I was supervising the project – either looking for mistakes or admiring the good efforts of cinematography.
The same can be said for marketing. I can’t buy toothpaste without being skeptical of the value the manufacturer tells me I’m supposedly getting for my dollar.
It’s this type of thinking I encourage people to use when they find themselves swayed by advertising. Since I worked in the industry, I knew exactly how consumers were persuaded. My biggest problem is trying to keep my mouth shut while watching television commercials. (Yes, we watch cable TV on a daily basis.)
Often, my husband sits quietly as I point out the annoying techniques that an advertiser may have used to make their product stand out from the others. Then I think, “What if I wasn’t so skeptical?” Would I be buying in to the hype of new features of old products? Would I be suckered in to a sale of items I really don’t need? Maybe I am saving us a few dollars just by stepping back and noting how the advertiser is doing its job.
My tip to consumers is to shop as if you worked in marketing. Know the difference between the gimmicks and good information that leads you to the right choices. Every brand is trying hard to stand out in order to get you to purchase their product. Their message is that you should include their service or product because you need it or it makes you feel good. They’ll tell you they know you, thanks to their target-marketing and psychographics research. Placement of their advertising based on your gender, age, and where you’re likely to be and what you’re likely using in your day-to-day life isn’t an accident.
In this age of information, challenge the industry by doing your homework on the product you’re interested in. Compare ingredients, services, and quality. Read, watch, or listen to testimonials from other consumers. Find out how often (or what time of year) is the best to take advantage of a sale, and ask yourself if that sale is actually worth waiting for.
An advertiser will never tell you to ignore their message. So, send a message back. Let a company know that they need to step up their game because starting now, you refuse to spend your hard-earned money on a product or sale that has no worth.