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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Marketing is far more successful than you might think

Published: April 11, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Trends in consumer behavior demonstrate that people generally assume that purchasing merchandise on sale proves that they are conscientious about spending money. Most people chose to shop during sale season, or when a good deal is offered; however, often times people simply see a “smart bargain” as an excuse to make a purchase which they may not have considered otherwise.

Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker addresses this idea of irrational behavior in her article “What Was I Thinking? The Latest Reasoning About our Irrational Ways.” People generally base their decisions on what will maximize their benefits, such as saving money by purchasing merchandise on sale.

However, often times outside influences cause people to miscalculate the benefits of a decision which then leads to irrational behavior.

In his novel Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely explains that our irrational behavior is systematic. This notion suggests that our thought process causes us to repeatedly make the same mistakes. People are swayed by marketing tactics such as “buy two, get one free,” because the idea of a free product is assumed to be beneficial.

Perhaps a person only intended on purchasing one book, but because of a “buy two, get one” free offer, they chose to buy two books, thinking that the extra money spent on the second one is almost negated by being given the third one free.

The psychology behind this reasoning seems to suggest that our decisions are often thoughtless and impulsive. People reason that a free offer is beneficial even if it adds an additional cost to their purchase. Although subconsciously people are aware of the fact that they are spending additional money, the idea of a bargain registers as less money spent.

Companies use marketing tactics to coerce consumers to purchase their merchandise. Many industries such as the clothing or food industry list prices such as $39.99, because the number registers as less then $40 spent, when in reality it is only a cent less!

Consumers often seem incapable of distinguishing an advertising scheme from an actually practical price offer.

Although the majority of consumers act irrationally when deciding to make a final purchase, there are certain individuals which chose to look past the persuasive “$9.99” marked in bold red letters.

Interestingly, people are influenced by the large print letters in a magazine or store front signifying a sale; however, people are typically impartial to the offers advertised by telemarketers. Advertisements made through phone calls are seen as a nuisance to the general public, and as a result people often chose to ignore the phone call completely.

Many households today choose to have phones with caller ID in order to monitor the phone calls, and avoid answering telemarketers.

Consumer behavior suggests that people refuse to succumb to advertisements which infringe upon their privacy.

The moral here is to seriously consider purchases before making them. Research is being and has been done to figure out how best to persuade the consumer to buy products. These strategies are oftentimes so covert that consumers don’t see them coming. Be a smart shopper and soon you’ll see though these marketing strategies and make purchases without buyer’s remorse.