Do Advertisements Define Our Culture?

We may carelessly pass by a billboard on the street, or zone-out during a commercial on our TV, but whether we know it or not, these advertisements are subliminally sending messages into our brain. Marketers spend billions of dollars, and millions of hours constructing these ads, hoping to connect with us, and sell us their product—and it’s working.

I recently watched a program on PBS called “the Persuaders,” which focused entirely around advertisement campaigns and the strategies marketers use to push their merchandise onto us, as consumers.

We are all susceptible to the tricks they use to keep us buying. Making the company’s logo on a shirt look “cool” or “fashionable,” is a way to turn us all into walking advertisements. Another tactic may be instilling a repetitive tune or catch phrase into our brains so we remember their product as we do our shopping.

But, one of the more frightening ways marketers target us is by playing on our very human emotions. The companies will use an inner message creating a meaning for the brand, where the product goes from being an object, to a symbol of a desirable human characteristic.

Marketers use different studies to research the desires of their consumers. They target us by aiming at our unconscious needs and impulses. Sometimes we have no idea why we need the commodity, it may not even fit into our every day needs, but the advertisement tells us that it is fulfilling and necessary. They strategically know the right words to use that will appeal to the customers, and give them a strong connection to the item.

Are we tricked into purchasing? Do the products give us what we want and need, or is it just the language disguising our inner feelings and needs?

Some people become so devoted to that company because of the message they portray, that the user goes from being a customer to becoming a devoted fan. Many market-researchers build on this “emotional branding,” by studying cults to place some of the same values into their companies. They found that one of the primary foundations cults use is providing its members with a sense of belonging that adds meaning to their lives. Many Mac users and Harley Davidson fanatics show the same obsession and loyalty to their organization.

It is natural for everyone to seek a sense of community, and want to feel a sense of belonging and meaning to their lives. Material objects may satisfy these needs for a period of time, but it does not last. This is perfectly fine in the eyes of the marketer, because it keeps us as consumers, and we keep going out and seeking more material objects, in hopes to fulfill and add purpose our lives.

All advertisements target YOU, what you need, and what you have to have. Just as L’oreal’s slogan says: “Because you’re worth it.”

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