I’ve often heard marketing described as a dark art that’s all about ripping customers off. There’s some belief out there that marketers (particularly advertisers) are just manipulatively brainwashing you and getting you to buy their products. I find this opinion quite amusing both as a marketer and as an aware consumer. Although I understand how marketing communication can be scary to some with the extent of stuff companies can find out about us, I don’t agree with the generalisation that all marketers are evil. Instead, I believe that we consumers have the ability to think for ourselves, that we should be discerning about what advertising messages we act on and then take responsibility for our own purchasing behaviour. I trust that you are reading this blog as one of these consumers, with a realistic appreciation of business competition, who doesn’t blame your purchase ‘mistakes’ as the fault of the big bad corporation. With that said, here I’ll discuss some clever marketing that has been designed to increase your usage and get you spending more, beyond what may be entirely rational in hindsight.
Marketing is about the notion of value exchange between the consumer and the company, and companies are discovering increasingly complex ways to extract more value from consumers. This is the job of the marketer – to satisfy the needs of consumers but also make money for doing so. Take the new Gatorade ‘G Series’ product range for example – Prime, Perform & Recover (Gatorade G-Series). This extension of the product range is designed to increase your overall usage of Gatorade products. Now, to run like Usain Bolt, bowl as fast as Brett Lee and Swim as fast as Geoff Huegill, you must drink all three Gatorade products before, during and after sport. However, this means that you have to spend much more than when there was only the original Gatorade sports drink, that now makes up only one-third of the G Series ‘system’. Additionally, sports nutritionists state that the maximum/optimum fluid intake to prevent dehydration during intense sport is 700 mLs an hour. The ‘Perfom’ product comes in 600 mL bottles – therefore, if you know what you’re doing as an athlete and are committed to peak performance, you’re 100 mLs short and need to buy another bottle. This again increases your usage of the Gatorade brand and puts more money in Gatorade’s pocket. For all the 45+ years of sports science behind the sport drink that is drilled into us by the Gatorade ads, there is also a significantly large commitment to marketing that we don’t hear about.
Increasing usage doesn’t just occur through clever product design and slick marketing communications. Marketers can execute strategies all the way up to the counter with ‘point-of-sale’ (POS) marketing. Ever been to a 7-Eleven counter with a bottle of Coke, only to be told you can buy a second bottle for ½ price if you’d just pull it out of the fridge? “What a bargain!” you think, and walk out quite happy with yourself. But if you stop and think about it, you’ve essentially just walked out with $1.50 less in your wallet and an extra bottle of Coke that you don’t know what to do with. Effective marketing creates this feeling of satisfaction in consumers even though the behaviour may be irrational, and will have them coming back for more. With advances in technology, the POS communication space is an exciting and rapidly evolving area of marketing.
All of this is the result of years and years of research into consumer behaviour and the psychological processes involved in making a purchase decision. It’s amazing how smart and effective some of these strategies are, and it is where big money is made in consumer products marketing. It’s also pretty scary when you consider the extent to which our buying behaviour can be influenced by highly specialised marketing strategies that are becoming more and more tailored to the individual. Is it too radical to say that this is in-fact a good thing? This increasingly intimate knowledge of consumers can mean that our needs are more comprehensively satisfied than ever before, and the quality of our lives can be improved by the products we consume.