Science vs. Advertising
There’s an old adage you’ve probably heard a thousand times and it goes something like this: Sex sells. On the surface it sounds plausible, even reasonable, and by many of today’s advertising campaigns one might consider it a stone cold fact.
In reality, emotions sell, and every advertiser worth their salt know this. It’s the reason we see coffee ads in the morning, pizza ads at suppertime, and mattress ads at bedtime. Our brains are in-tune at these times of day with these types of products and we’re more likely to respond positively in these situations.
It’s this knowledge that gives advertisers and marketing companies an advantage when it comes to getting us to buy their wares. They use sophistry and a bit of smoke-and-mirrors to get us to purchase things that sound good for us but in truth are not necessary or worse, actually bad for us.
As humans we’re hard-wired, in some instances, to operate in our own worst interests. We can be strapped with crippling debt, see and advertisement for “6-months same as cash” and justify our way into a brand new flat screen TV to go along with the three we already have.
Why Do We Fall For The Hype?
So, why are advertisers so smart and the rest of us seemingly destined to fall for their deception? A great deal of it has to do with our desire for the results they’re touting. Here’s a perfect example: Attractive people are gathered in revealing or form-fitting clothing to sell us a miracle diet pill, the formula for which was developed by a doctor, that will result in drastic weight loss in just a few short weeks.
We know they’re lying and yet, for almost inexplicable reasons, we pull out our credit cards and pick up the phone to buy a product we don’t need and won’t work. We even get talked into recurring billing and then wonder, in a few months, why the only thing losing weight is our bank accounts.
Evolution over eons of time has conspired against us, and deep within our DNA is an incredible desire to “win” at all costs and little to no desire to discover the actual “truth.”
It’s officially known as the Argumentative Theory of Reasoning, and it’s why we’re so ready, willing, and able to argue over pointless minutia, sometimes to preposterous extents, even when every fact contrary to our position has been proved. It’s the reason politicians can evoke such visceral reactions in party supporters, even if what they’re saying isn’t true and would result in constituents actually voting against their own best interests. The desire to win—to beat the other guy—is all that matters.
It’s also the reason we’ll drop hundreds and thousands of our hard earned dollars on diet pills that we know won’t work. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, our desire to win overrides our desire to know the truth, and the next thing you know your reading off your credit card numbers to a friendly telephone operator half a world away.
Excuse Me, Your Bias Is Showing
To suggest we’re as predictable as Pavlov’s dogs might not be utterly true, and some might take offense, but advertising is a numbers game and we consumers have proved time and again in the right circumstances we’ll go right ahead and purchase a new product called Gum ‘n Crackers.
Cognitive bias is an evolved mental behavior and can seriously affect our decision-making processes. Desire and motivation are two of the most powerful biases we have and play a powerful role in our responses and reactions to advertising campaigns. This is one of the primary reasons “coffee in the morning” and “mattresses at bedtime” is an effective approach to selling coffee and mattresses.
Cognitive biases are powerful enough to cause us, at an alarming rate sometimes, to ignore relevant information—often called Neglect of Probability—and to accept irrelevant information.
This is most often seen in our differing responses to essentially the same information, based on nothing more than how it’s presented. Little kids who won’t eat their broccoli when we tell them how good it is for them will often respond differently when their stronger, older brothers tells them it will help them to grow up big and strong.
Our Own Worst Enemies
Belief Bias is, perhaps, our worst enemy when it comes to falling for advertising shenanigans. When belief in something is the primary argument you make in determining the truth of a claim, then you’re an advertiser’s dream come true.
If you’re belief is that organic is better than non-organic, then motivating you to purchase anything labeled “organic” is easy because half the battle has already been done—by you!
Advertisers have been making claims about organic this and organic that since the word organic became part of our lexicon. We know, for a fact, that some things labeled “organic” are, in fact, not organic, and yet, because of our “belief” bias we convince ourselves it’s exactly the product we need.
Look no further than protein supplements for a perfect example of advertisers taking advantage of “belief bias.” Proteins are readily available throughout nature, including in beef, chicken, and pork; seafood like salmon and tuna; lentils, beans, and legumes; dairy like milk, eggs, and yogurt; nuts, seeds, and nut butters. In short, protein is everywhere we look, and yet, protein supplements play a huge role in the $58 billion nutritional supplements industry!
With a proper diet, we don’t need supplemental protein, but our “belief bias” overrules every last scrap of common sense, even when we’re in the throes of excessive protein ingestion indicated by weight gain, intestinal irritation, and dehydration. All this can lead to seizures, increased liver enzymes, and nutritional deficiencies when proteins become the focus, increased kidney problems, and additional risk of heart disease.
It takes truly informed consumers to sift through all the hype thrown at them by marketing companies and advertising agencies, and even then it might not be enough. Science is a huge underdog to all the hype, and it’s because the facts of science tend to escape us while the glitz and glitter of advertising speaks our language.
Remember, emotions sell, and until advertising executives stop directly targeting our wants, desires, and motivations most of us will probably continue making purchases for things we don’t want and won’t work, and that’s something advertisers just aren’t willing to tell you.
More information on Argumentative Theory of Reasoning.*
This article come from the guys over at CableTV.com. They have been really supportive of CoolEFitness.
* Not a scientific source