Are You A Victim?

The question was asked over at MoneyNing that inspired me to rant a bit. The question: Are you a victim of marketing? Does watching commercials influence your purchasing decisions, and if not, how do you resist?

Marketing is one of the most scientific disciplines I know about. Marketers know what makes you tick, and more importantly, what makes you reach for your wallet and fork over your dough. They’re experts in the human psyche, and not even my autistic son is completely immune to the lures of advertising.

Only an advertiser can have you believe (subconsciously, because our rational minds know it’s bunk) that drinking beer will get you lots of hot women, or that microwavable TV dinners will help family communications. (Seriously, on that last one–look at the picture on the back of a Swanson’s TV Dinner box, where the mom is helping the kids with homework on the pristine surface of the kitchen island.)

I consider myself pretty immune to advertising, because I mostly filter it out of my life before it gets in.

I don’t watch television. At all.

I rarely go to movies, and when I do, I tend to go with someone (my daughter) who will ridicule whatever’s being advertised.

I throw out most of the printed advertising material that comes in the door without even looking at it. (Grocery ads are the exception.)

I don’t read many magazines, and I don’t look at the ads when I do read them.

I ignore the ads on internet sites I visit, and I don’t keep my credit card handy when I’m surfing. I very, very rarely buy anything online anyhow. When I do shop online, I treat it as I would a shopping trip to the mall. (See below…)

I don’t treat shopping as a competitive sport. I stay out of the stores unless I know exactly what I’m going to buy, where I’m going to buy it, and hopefully how much it will cost me.

Finally, when I am tempted to make a purchase (and yes, I’ve still been tempted, despite getting rid of as much advertising temptation as possible), I take a breather of a day or so to think. Do I really need what’s being offered? Can I afford it now? Can I get something that will do the job for free, or do I already have something that will do the job? And I research the product to find out what the critics are saying about it.

The most important point is the last. If you take the time to really think about your purchase (rather than simply take time to convince yourself that it’s a good bargain), you’ll become a more savvy shopper, and waste less of your money on stuff that doesn’t add to your quality of living one bit.

Advertising, more than anything else, is designed to give you a sense of urgency. If you don’t make this purchase NOW, you’ll pay a lot more later, or maybe even not be able to buy it ever again. If you don’t buy this NOW, everyone else will get there first, and there will be none left for you. If you don’t buy this NOW, you’ll be forever labelled as an unsophisticated boor, with no class whatsoever.

Except that in order to offer you a 75% discount, chances are close to 100% that the product price has been inflated by about 500%. Except that more of whatever they want you to buy is even now coming off the factory floors. And even more, except that if you don’t buy whatever it is, your life will not go down the tubes. You won’t be unattractive to women if you don’t drink a particular brand of beer (and you may in fact be more attractive), you won’t have less time for your family if you put a roast in the oven (in fact, you’ll have more time, since you can cook everyone’s meal at once), and lastly, you won’t end up with the usual financial difficulties that come with buying stuff you don’t need at prices you can’t afford with money you don’t have.

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About Ruth Cooke

Ruth Cooke B.A, M.Div., MPS is a writer, public speaker, and itinerant preacher whose areas of expertise and interest include poverty issues and solutions, parenting exceptional children, sexual orientation, and the place of religious institutions in society. If you would like Ruth to come preach, speak or lead a class or group, please contact her via email.
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