How to minimize being impacted by “cultural imprinting” in advertising

September 29, 2014 § 3 Comments

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?


§ 3 Responses to How to minimize being impacted by “cultural imprinting” in advertising

  • lethally says:

    I admitted a long time ago that I’m susceptible to advertising. Very, very susceptible. So I turn the channels of advertising off as much as possible, to avoid seeing / hearing / experiencing it. I also try to be aware of it, and in that way counter its effects. In other words, if I feel myself wanting something, I tell myself “the advertising is affected me. It’s slick. I’m aware of it now, so I’ll avoid it” and that helps. A lot.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post about a really interesting subject.

    • Thanks for your comment, Lethally. I think awareness is critical — I had been avoiding ads, but not so conscious of the peer pressure aspect … and for me (a tech gadget geek) this is dangerous as well. Now I know that the both influences are working and I really need to question before purchasing!

      • lethally says:

        I’m trying to question everything. I’m not always successful! But my spending has dropped significantly over the last few years, I no longer follow fashion, and I’m finding hat I definitely have fewer needs now, so I think it’s working. I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m seeing real improvements, and that’s something I’m happy about 🙂

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