Learn to be the master: how Marketing secretly controls your lives

No matter who you are, anyone living in the modern age will be exposed to marketing. This leaves two choices: either understand it, or be controlled by it. Even if you are not working in the marketing field, there are plenty of insights and techniques you can apply to your everyday life.

Say that after years in a boring old job going nowhere, you decide to change vocations. The first thing you do would be to fire up the old resume: update it with your most recent skills and achievements, and send it out to relevant people. Perhaps you would use networks and attend conventions to scout out potential availabilities, or even enquire with friends and acquaintances. Weeks later, you get a call about attending an interview. Most likely, you would go prepared: armed with a folder containing past works and your portfolio. You would dress up in a suit, and practice what you would say to common interview questions. All this is in preparation for an intense session where you need to show who you are and why they need you. The job search process is just as much about gathering information as it is about selling yourself. Coincidentally, so is marketing.

Researching about other companies and markets is a skill which is necessary in many situations. Whether you are deciding to invest in stocks or just looking at what the best speakers are, you will need to analyse and consolidate a mass of information into something which is useful and actionable.

Skills in sales would enable you not only to excel when finding a job, but when asking for a raise, pushing an idea, or even just networking with others. Knowing how to hook others to what you have to say is not only useful in marketing, but outside of work too.

Besides these, there are countless other examples which could be given, but I am sure you get the point. Marketing is important, useful, and ubiquitous. Understand and use it, or fail at it- your choice.

Just as important as using marketing in your everyday life is understanding how marketing is used, and how it can affect you. Understand that marketing communications which you see and actively recognise as an attempt to convince you of a brand’s value is only a fraction of what you are exposed to. As humans, most of what we learn and are conditioned to think are subconscious. Even of those which require conscious mental energy, most of the time we are simply unaware of what we are doing, or take it for granted.

Take the famous German-French Wine study of 1999. Adrian North teamed up with a group of other researchers to understand how much music actually affected purchasing decisions. The situation is as such: the research team chose a supermarket with near-equal selections of German and French wines. Over a period of time, they would alternate between stereotypical German music and stereotypical French music. What they found was that when they played German music, German wines outsold French wines by far, and when they played French music, French wines would outsell German ones. While this may not come as a surprise, what the researchers discovered next would show the power of marketing. While checking out, the customers who bought wine would be asked a series of questions, one of which included why they bought the type of wine they had. Only 1 participant from 44 identified the store music as a reason. Even when specifically prompted (”Do you think the music affected your purchase decision?”), only 6 out of 44 agreed.

What this shows is that Marketing has the power to affect us in a major way without even knowing about it. In the study, respondents were followed up on questions such as why they bought the wine, and even though it was abundantly clear that music was the deciding factor, most customers made up reasoning for why they bought it, attributed it to other things, claimed that they just felt like it, or just admitted that they had no idea.

While yes, obvious forms of marketing works too (McDonald’s massive picture of their succulent apple pies is all it takes to get me to buy one), for every one you identify, many more discreet buying signals and methods of persuasion escape your attention. Do you think about the specific and unique smell Subway sandwiches gives off, for example? Or perhaps that used-car dealers often spray “new-car leather” scent to make old cars seem more attractive? Marketing is everywhere, and it is a powerful tool. You have already learned to be it’s slave. It is time to learn to be it’s master

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