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The line between consumerism and culture has become increasingly blurred in recent years. Community is now defined by a society's consuming desires and attitudes, which have resulted from relentless and increasingly modern forms of advertisement. In today's culture, brands are increasingly defining themselves as community icons rather than corporate enterprises, often eliciting more unquestionable allegiance and dedication than religion. The multibillion-dollar advertising market draws the brightest minds whose prime goal is to cut through the haze of advertising. The daily consumers keep getting bombarded with advertisements everywhere they look or go, with the millions of advertising messages to sift through; the advertisers need to be more creative and complex in their approach to become more relevant to a consumer which may lead to the application of unconventional and manipulative advertising methods.
Advertisers are prone to use language manipulation to make a product, brand or concept seem appealing to the target end audience depending on the end goal. This is sometimes applied to push political agenda and views, for example popularizing the name ‘death tax’ to be used in place of ‘estate tax’ to make people form unfavorable opinions about it. It is common for advertisers to manipulate language to make suggestions about their products without directly claiming them to be true. This makes consumers change their preferences in favor of certain products because advertising makes them seem more appealing than they are. Most products in the market today are common products like soap, beer and cigarettes in which for most brands, the products are nearly identical, which makes most advertisers to rely on language manipulation and gimmicks to make their products seem like the best in the market. There are claims which many advertisers use that can’t be proven to be misleading even when studied grammatically. The claims do not provide people with wrong information instead, they manipulate people into making assumptions about the products by using modifiers such as ‘helps’ before their claims, so that if the product claim is ‘Helps control pests’, then it means that the product does not utterly keeps pests under control but helps you to control them and as such the advertisers and the product companies will not be susceptible to lawsuits in the event of product failure.
In the search for the most influential advertising methods, advertisers have turned to neuromarketing which is a relatively new technique which studies the brain’s response to marketing stimuli by using medical technology such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). It was popularized by a Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi study which created a great interest with marketers globally, as it promised to investigate decision-making behavior at a subconscious level thoroughly. This shows that advertisers as willing to go as far as probing the human mind just to boost the sale of products. Companies have now found value in the growing piles of psychological data that has been around since brain-imaging technology. Since the dawn of advertising, advertiser heavily relied on behavioral and psychological studies for market research, but now they can probe the brain directly. The technique creates a lot of worry and discomfort for some people because it might eventually lead to consumers being manipulated at a deeper level by the advertisers using to the brain scans for the creation of more effective advertisements and propaganda.
Psychological programming through advertisements occurs frequently; people are subconsciously compelled to live with pre-determined goals and false aspirations. Advertising subjects the unconscious mind to a lot of substantial influence and control which aims to dictate the purchasing choices and lifestyles of individuals. This is mostly done through mediums that people actively subscribe to such as entertainment. This has led to the demise of genuine organic entertainment content as more content creators are now working with advertisers to create content that is structured around selling their products, and what makes it more effective is that most viewers are not aware of this and therefore they are left unguarded against these compelling messages. Human beings are susceptible to psychological manipulation; advertisers often show people who seem more successful or happier with the claim that their product could deliver that, they know happiness and success are greatly sought after and are what makes people get up in the morning. So, when people compare themselves to these ‘happy and more successful’ people, their self-worth dwindles and creates some void which individuals fill by making purchases more purchases of items that they do not need in their lives. Also, human aspects like better sex and romance get psychologically implanted into the consumers’ minds. The use of sexual appeal and desires to sell products is very common and often dominant in male-targeted advertisements. This often exploits the human desire to feel loved and wanted which programs the individuals to react in certain ways. Sexual depiction in advertisements and all media influence sexual activity in young people, which might lead them to have an unhealthy obsession with sex later in life.
Advertising has made people be more narcissistic and self-obsessed. People are in perpetual competition with one another. Advertisers promise to make you better than everyone, all of them promise that their products will increase an individual’s status to surpass that of the ordinary person. People then turn themselves into gleaming figures of grandeur and build impenetrable psychological walls around themselves which make them lose all sense of community and cooperation. Brands use celebrities to show banal information that implies nothing is mundane once you are important enough in the society, this makes people seek out this level of importance and self-worth. It is apparent in the rising cases of cosmetic surgery with celebrities being fixated on their appearance to meet the appeal of fame and social status. The public then follows suit emulating this vanity, with ordinary people having treatments to improve their appearance. Narcissism creates an ill-defined and amorphous damage causing people to become disconnected with one another. The essential traits of the narcissistic society created by advertisers are self-promotion and individuality. They push the idea that every individual is worth it, special and different which arrive at the call of competitiveness that claims people acting in their own self-interests will lead to a better outcome for everyone.
In conclusion, advertisers and brands alike seek to make that magic connection to the consumers, and they will go to great lengths to accomplish that, from neuromarketing, hiring linguistics to outright psychological manipulation. Some have been successful, some have failed. There is still a big unknown area about consumer behavior, and it all comes down to the freedom of choice. Consumers still have the power to make choices about their preferred consumption commodity and understanding why consumers make these choices might empower them to make better choices in the future.
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"The Persuaders | FRONTLINE | PBS". Pbs.Org, 2017, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders/.
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