Are you wasting money because of these 7 food marketing tricks?
We´re all ninjas!
Well, sort of…
By now, we are so used to the roaring stream of information and daily advertisements that swoop down on us like angry birds of prey. So much, that we´re practically trained ninjas in ignoring and avoiding it.
That’s why by now marketers need different schemes to tempt us into buying their products.
According to marketing guru, Seth Godin, there´s been a shift in paradigm – with marketing as we know it being dead. Thus food companies will try hitting a different note. Rather than approaching our rational self, they will try appealing to our emotions.
When the brain goes “no thanks” our emotions will have us go “oh, but wait”.
Also, our natural awareness towards and desire for better health, youth, and longevity, are marketer´s new best weapon to draw us in.
Oh sure, you might want or need the products anyway. But as I see it, it´s only fair you´re made aware of the trickery used – to make it a fair game.
So pay close attention to these tactics that food companies use, to make you spend your money buying their products.
Green Supreme – Vegan products
Here´s the thing.
Food companies currently feed on the trending misconception amongst consumers, that vegetarian and vegan diets in themselves are better for human health.
Our increasing fear of red meat combined with an amplified consciousness toward our impact on the environment has started a product revolution.
Sales of meat-free alternatives have skyrocketed.
Sure, for a number of reasons this development could be argued to be positive.
We increase our general awareness and moderate our meat intake. In turn that might profit our health, not to mention the health of our planet – AND we get more personalized food to choose from.
The thing is just this.
In order to imitate meat products in relation to flavor, taste, and looks, food producers have to crank up the creativeness as to what they put in those products.
This often includes piling loads of salt, sugar, preservatives, cheap unhealthy oils and refined flour into these green products.
Some vegan cheeses contain more salt in one slice than a handful of potato chips does, I mean, that´s just ridiculous!
And then there´s the whole problem with soy. It´s often used to replace animal protein with that of a vegetable source to attain the same amino acid quality.
As it turns out, soy isn´t that great for our health in larger amounts.
Also, according to organizations like the WWF, soybean cultivation for animal and human feed is the cause of deforestation, threatening biodiversity, depleting ecosystems services and is emitting vast amounts of carbon dioxide.
But let´s not go there today, ok!
What´s better then?
So while vegan- and vegetarian-labeled products obviously CAN be great. Make sure to check what’s actually in the product before you buy it.
After all, the best vegetarian products are those with no need for a label.
By paying attention you avoid eating a truly unhealthy product while being led to think you were doing something good for the planet and your own health. Don´t just buy into the branding alone – that’s exactly what the industry wants you to do.
Make sure you actually get what you expect.
So be skeptical, set demands – As a consumer, that is your right!
How Romantic – Familiarities
In western society today most of us have more stuff than we really need – this includes food.
We have our basic needs covered and are bombarded with consumer choices each and every day – therefore it takes more to motivate us to buy new things.
Marketers realize that.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
We can look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to understand this sort of motivation.
The renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that, in life, we thrive to move up a hierarchy of needs in a specific order until our every need is fulfilled. Then and only then, will we reach our full potential.
At first, we have a need for the basics like food, sleep, and water. Then comes the need for shelter and safety. After the basic needs are covered we want to be loved and to belong – to either a group or a tribe or a community – These are our social needs.
We then strive to build on our own esteem, to be an individual, and to gain the respect of others.
Finally, we strive to fulfill our need for self-actualization – which includes having a sense of morality, acceptance, and creativity.
So basically, when we have all the basics covered, we no longer need stuff – we want more.
We want to build our identity – Thus we choose products for what it says about us as an individual, not because we really need it.
The extraordinary effort
Thus in order to get us to buy their product, marketers will have to do something extraordinary. We no longer buy things we NEED, we buy the story – the identity a particular product will provide.
Today we see a shift in consumer trend to move towards the more familiar, the local, the known. Marketers exploit this to bring you the romantic local story. They might put a picture of a local farmer on a product.
So what´s the problem with that, you might think?!
The problem is this. The farm on the packaging doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the actual origin of the product, or how it´s produced. It doesn´t necessarily have anything to do with animal welfare.
Producers might label an industrially produced jam as “mamas homemade recipe” even if mama herself was not included in the making. And the berries were picked overseas. By a machine.
Since we´re more likely to buy from someone we know, this is quite a clever trick.
One consumer trend study, in particular, came to a surprising conclusion. Having a castle on the packaging, allowed brands to claim a 17% higher price, with no additional alterations made to the product.
Thus marketers will use faces, names, oldies but goodies, familiarities, and cozy romantic images. This is a way for them to tell you the story, to appeal to your subconscious mind, that this product is familiar, so you assume it must be good and buy into it.
Should you buy it?
Don´t get me wrong – I´m not saying you might not still want a particular product – and that´s great.
But knowing is power, and by staying critical and actually inspecting the product thoroughly, you´ll know exactly what you´re getting. This will enable you to make an informed choice.
A cheaper brand may offer the exact same content, so whether you want to spend more money on misleading branding is up to you.
I know I don´t.
Adventures ahead – Exotic mixtures
Now I´m a bit of a daydreamer truth be told.
If you´re like me, you might know the feeling of going through a routine day wondering what life would be like at the turquoise beach of some distant place on the other side of the planet.
My guess is a HUGE amount of people actually feel this way.
From time to time probably most of us dream of just a speck of an exotic touch to our everyday life – and who can blame us.
That probably why there´s a current trend tempting consumers to buy food with names and branding that remind us of exotic places.
And the more specific the better.
If the product can make us dream of a specific region, or make us imagine how it must be grabbing our backpack trekking through that particular forest, with scented air and fresh beautiful oxygen filling our lungs.
Then we´re more likely to buy into the story.
Marketers know this, and any time they can get away with it, they´ll label their products with specific exotic names and pictures, to make us listen to their story and buy their product.
Think plain lime vs. Mexican lime.
Or plain old salt vs. Himalayan salt.
Which ones would you choose just by hearing the name? I know what I would go for.
Now, you might be thinking, so what´s wrong with that?
And the answer is, absolutely nothing.
But it´s worth considering if you want to save a buck or two.
Just because something has an exotic ring to it doesn’t mean you necessarily get a better product, than the one next to it with no branding and a boring title.
Be strong – Protein in all
The 2018 trend of asking ourselves “what can I add to my diet to make me stronger, better, healthier”, has, not surprisingly, extended to protein supplementation.
Anthropological surveys show, that we typically associate added protein with a product that makes us stronger and fitter.
Do you believe this statement?
Marketers do. They are “way in” already.
Try noticing how many products in your local store, claiming to contain more protein. And I bet you more are coming as we go towards 2019.
Protein supplementation was previously meant for people in sports and bodybuilding. Now it’s readily available in everyday products such as yogurt, bars, soft drinks, and candy to mention a few.
However, additional flavoring and even sugar are often added to these products.
They need this to cover up the rather unpleasant taste you´ll undeniably get from added protein – whether the protein has been extracted from whey or a vegetable source.
While products with protein as the only extra additive may prove beneficial for some, as it could heighten the feeling of fullness between meals – thing is – most of us don´t really need it.
Do you need it?
As a human being, at the very max, you can metabolize around 2 g protein per kg body weight. And that´s in the extreme division. most of us need only 0,9-1,2 gram protein per kg bodyweight.
That sums up to a total amount of around 90-120 gram a day for a 100 kg male, which can easily be obtained through a balanced diet.
Also, products with additional additives may balance out the good we thought we did our bodies by choosing high protein. So if you do choose products with added protein, check the label and pay attention to additional unwanted additives.
Does the product contain added sugar, salt, taste additives or other unclear substances?
Usually, a healthy balanced diet is better and will provide you with plenty of protein, even a vegan or vegetarian diet can be planned out to provide you with sufficient protein.
So if you’re feeling indecisive as of whether to spend an extra buck or two on a high protein variation of a product, consider if it’s really worth it, and then just go with what suits your needs.
They claim it, so must be true – Promoted content
Celebs like Kyle Jenner, Selina Gomez and Christiano Ronaldo each makes a whopping 1 million dollar (or more) per Instagram product post.
And they do that for a reason – when these influencers promote content company sales skyrocket.
Now, why is that?
Being ninjas at avoiding and ignoring regular product advertising, you would think the same logic applied to a sponsored or promoted post from influencers.
Scientific studies show that by identifying ourselves with, looking up to, and following these celebs, we feel familiar with them. We feel like we know them.
Thus they are much more likely to get under our skins and we are more likely to buy from them.
We simply turn down our critical voice when it comes to the things influencers claim or sell.
This results in a follow-blindly, buy-all from them kind of mentality.
So, you don´t follow any celebrities
Don´t think this only applies in the celeb world – Influencers and promoters lurk everywhere, within every field, and for all age groups.
That’s why people surprisingly take life-altering advice from self-proclaimed gurus, who to be honest, might not have a single bit of science-backed knowledge on the topic at hand.
It´s like asking your doctor for financial advice because he´s a great doctor. Yet you have no idea about his own financial situation.
So follow your favorite influencer for inspiration, but try not forget your critical eye, especially when it comes to important decisions for your own health – like food and lifestyle choices for instance.
Nutrition is a serious matter, and treating it any different by following non-backed health-advice may actually damage your body and general wellbeing.
Remember, these people make a living promoting themselves and their content – Marketers take advantage of this to gain leverage and sell you more stuff.
Influencers might mean well, but the fact is – They make a living promoting. Thus do it for their own good. It´s not necessarily what´s best – or most healthy – for you.
Sadly, it´s often far from.
Moments to treasure – indulgence, and balance
For our desire to do something good for your body and mind and to obtain a high level of fulfillment, marketers have learned, that many people are attracted to the idea of buying into the finer things in life when it comes to food.
We as consumers are willing to pay that little extra for an indulgence product. This means products offering premium quality and momentary escapism.
And marketers have taken advantage of this.
According to Innova Market Insights, a company who provide knowledge solutions for the food and beverage industry, 2017 showed a global 57% growth for new products with a “crafted” or “handcrafted” claim.
Now, items haven´t just been “made”, they´ve been “crafted”.
This is true of especially alcoholic beverages and confectionary, but also products within bakery, soft drinks, and dairy become subject to these claims.
A trend that has only increased during 2018.
Innova Market Insights reveal that 56 % of U.S. consumers buy chocolate because they are “looking for indulgence” or “something for pleasure”.
In this way, products offer promises of indulgence, great taste, quality and sophisticated flavors.
But how to know?
How can we be sure that these claims are not just marketing scams?
You´d be surprised at the extent marketers will go to make us familiarise and identify with a product through its branding, claims and the packaging.
One way is to check the label, or if you want to go to the extent, most companies will offer more information on their website.
To a certain point, companies will have to live up to their claims in order to abide by marketing laws.
However, it´s a good idea to pay attention, as a certain claim, like that of “crafted” or “handcrafted”, might refer to something other than what you might associate it with.
If your favorite brand can back their claims and really offer an outstanding product that encapsulates great taste and better quality (for e.g. workers and animal welfare etc.) – I say go for it.
If not, I personally wouldn´t waste my money on it.
Clean extreme – no nasties
Today´s hype over the so-called “perfect” nutrition regime and the battle for an unrealistic body ideal has fumed a lot of misconceptions as to what health really is.
Often, when we try to live up to these strict rules, it results in people setting up strict diet regimes for themselves. This is typically followed by predictably relapses.
For many, relapse can cause guilt trips and low self-esteem – when we are not able to follow our own strict rules, it reminds us of our own shortcomings.
It easily becomes a vicious circle, as guilt and negative emotions may lead to overindulgence and overeating.
So how do we make ourselves feel better after a period of overeating and indulging in high calorie, low nutrient, sugary, fatty foods?
We balance out eating crap for a long period of time, by doing something we think will instantly be good for us, our body and the environment.
Does the word DETOX ring a bell?
Marketers have found out that we love buying into the idea that we can detoxify or clean ourselves from within.
The media, countless websites and influencers promote the practice of trying to rid yourself of these ingested nasties or so-called “toxins”.
They make tons of money off the idea, that we can cleanse ourselves with the right foods or by excluding specific foods.
In this way claims related to anything raw, non-GMO, superfood, organic, and free-from (sugar, gluten, lactose, dairy, caffeine) makes us believe, that we can reduce our risk of disease and become more radiant, healthy and full of vitality.
But here´s the thing
Our bodies accumulate both natural and manmade toxins when we breathe and when we feed. According to science, going to the extreme with our diet regimes isn´t going to help the body shed these toxins any more effectively.
Instead, our liver and kidney do an amazing job cleaning our bodies on a daily basis, assuming they are healthy.
Take it from me. Unless you´re willing to throw money out the window, instead improve your health by opting for more veggies, fruit, and fibers in your diet. Stop eating crap food and start drinking more water.
Simple as that, and a WAY cheaper approach to improving your health long term.
Now don´t get me wrong.
Products aren´t necessarily good or bad evaluated by their claims only, and obviously different diet regimes and eating patterns calls for a variation in need for various products.
However, by paying attention to the above and by being critical to the strategies out there, it will be immensely helpful for you to sort the great from the gruff, and save money where applicable.
Variation is great as we are able to buy more products that suit our specific need.
I´m just advising you to pay attention and decide if you want to spend your money on quality or if it’s just money out the window.
You have a voice and your choices matters!
When we as consumers take responsibility and demand quality and transparency from the food industry, it creates a demand for transparency from the industry themselves, hopefully providing products that make it easier for us to navigate the nutrition-jungle out there.
Best of luck
(photo credit: Peter Heeling)