I read an article this morning about how ads work (and how they don’t work) and the author describes the difference between how we think advertising works:
- ads make you want something by associating the thing being advertised to a feeling/value/state-of-being you want, (“emotional inception”)
And how he thinks advertising actually works:
- ads make you want to associate yourself with a value that has been agreed upon by a group of your peers as being associated with the thing being advertised, (“cultural imprinting”)
Cultural imprinting relies on the fact that even if you have lived under a rock and avoided television, radio, magazines and advertising of all forms, your peers have not and they have agreed upon a value being associated to a specific thing. Because of the widespread viewing of the Corona ad above, for example, if you show up at a party with Corona, you may be perceived as a relaxed, beachy kind of person.
The beneficial part from what I can tell, is that this type of advertising doesn’t always drive you to purchase, it is more of a purchase decision influence … kind of like the “Choosy mothers choose Jif” ads of old that ensured you would buy Jif when you were in the market for peanut butter, but didn’t make you feel the need to run out and buy peanut butter.
The downside, though, is that some of things I try to do to minimize my shopping desires — things like eliminating commercial television and canceling magazine subscriptions and catalogs — are of no use against this type of advertising. If I’m feeling a lack of creativity, I may feel compelled to run out and buy an Apple product or a Moleskine to get a needed boost.
So how do I minimize the impact of this type of advertising? First, I do not assume that these ads speak the truth. Second, I continually strive to know myself. Is buying water in a recycled plastic bottle really consistent with my environmental values or is carrying my own reusable bottle more in-line?
How about you? Have you found yourself buying into a product’s image rather than the product itself? How do you minimize the impact of cultural imprinting in your own life?