Marketing and advertising are old news. We all know they exist and how they permeate our daily lives. Billions spent on endorsements, crazy ad campaigns desperate for our conscious and subconscious attention, clever packaging, the list is endless. All manner of ingenious things have been created under the guise of marketing. The art of selling, one might call it. It’s something that has become an engrained part of our culture, and we have accepted it, adapted to it. Sure, we have probably become a bit jaded by the unrelenting marketing materializations of a capitalist society, and as a consumer have perhaps adapted some sort of resistance against the torrent of advertising shoved down our throats. People generally don’t like the idea that they are being manipulated, so if the consumer knows that X brand is using X strategy to get more sales, he won’t fall for it, right?
The thing is, the industry is always one step ahead. While we are worried about not getting too influenced by this irresistible perfume packaging, or that hilarious [random ad campaign here], the truth is that the industry is using selling techniques that go way beyond our grasp. Marketing has become in many aspects a morally questionable study of human behavior. So much so, that it went from being seen as a creative industry to being considered a science, making extensive use of social sciences, psychology, sociology, mathematics, economics, anthropology and neuroscience. For an actual example of the extent and effectiveness of this we only have to look at the recent Facebook-Trump election scandals.
Supermarkets, one of the Meccas of consumption, use marketing in remarkably creative ways to better sway the customer’s decisions. It’s a giant rabbit hole of behavior patterns, product placement optimization, lighting, layout, the list is endless, but the bottom line is that consumers’ habits are effectively, constantly, unashamedly, being affected.
Now, nothing impacts our health so much as our eating habits, and it’s safe to assume that companies don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind. While it is undeniable that in the last few years the western world has undergone a paradigm shift when it comes to eating habits - people are much more concerned about eating healthy, are more environmentally conscious and morally concerned about the choices they are making. However, I believe that a higher degree of widespread consciousness is vital. We should ask ourselves, why do I eat what I eat? And make informed decisions based on our beliefs. As Socrates might have put it, the unexamined diet is not worth having. What other way is there to not fall into the claws of a billion-dollar marketing plan? What I propose here is to exercise your right to freedom, to make your own choices, for better or worse. That is, unless you are a firm believer in the lack of free will, in which case I have only one thing to say - enjoy the ride!
If you are curious to learn about how to navigate the jungle of labels and misleading ingredient names, join our Talk for Transformation on Thursday 26.4., 18:00: From Confused to Empowered: Understanding Food Labels
Written by David Gomes