Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Print Ad Susceptibility (L-O-N-G)

Do you ever find yourself unable to resist print ads and suggestive sales when you easily defeat those broadcast on TV? You know, those enticing layouts of nicely decorated rooms with itemized shopping indexes (where you too can buy this stuff) on spreads in Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal?

It’s everywhere, even shoved into your mailbox once (now twice) a week, courtesy of the U.S. Postal service. There’s nothing like a bundle of glossy four-color paper with no less than four rivaling pizza company ads, three furniture ads, a carpet cleaning service card with someone’s missing kids on the back, and a folded spread of just about every fast food joint around. Maybe, just maybe, a local over-priced grocery store circular included in the bundle. Then later in the week, another wad arrives buried in a copy of the classifieds with a grocery store ad on the final page. We usually get ours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the whole thing goes straight into the trash (now fireplace).

I’ve asked my mail carrier what I can do to get off this federally-sanctioned junk mail list, and am told I cannot because the advertisers deal directly with USPS to produce and distribute this pathetic excuse for mail. It kind of makes sense, though—the postal service producing junk mail so the carriers have something to deliver in this day and age of electronic billing. If there isn’t a reason for the service to exist, then make something up--the union demands it!

Meanwhile, back at the magazine rack, advertisers are saying essentially the same thing: "How can we sell something that nobody seems to want individually?" Group them together in some kind of attractive spread, such as a “living room redo” or “closet makeover.” How can we attract more advertisers through product placement in a set number of pages? Do a “kitchen remodel” or a “gourmet cooking” spread. Let’s add more twist and throw in a holiday theme—“backyard barbeque on the fourth of July” or “a traditional Christmas homecoming.” Do you see how subtle print ads have become? They aren’t just an item with a price any more. Now, they tell a story.

You can have this story too, if you’ll just go out and buy the following…and that’s where the seduction begins. That’s the hidden message in these lavish room layouts and fancy four-color ads—fall for it, and you’re hooked for life. Then, you can’t pass up a magazine rack in the grocery store checkout, or stroll through a hardware store without perusing their home makeover books and booklets. HGTV becomes a regular for the TiVo, and don’t get me started on THOSE ads (done live and unscripted in the guise of home improvement programs, mostly for Home Depot).

The addiction begins…the magazines start appearing in your mailbox. You salivate over more and more layouts of elegant-but-unachievable looks for family room and kitchen, lawn and garden, even the garage! The clippings start piling up, and you swear you’re going to organize them someday. Five years later, you finally get to it, only to wind up throwing out about half, because you’re no longer interested in the item(s). This is exactly what they want from you—the magazine is only good for 30 days, but the image and idea is good as long as you have that clipping. If the image and idea is strong enough, they may even make you actually go out and purchase the item(s). This is want creation in print form, paid for by advertisers, and lovingly laid out, color- and accessory-coordinated, and photographed by magazine staff.

It doesn’t stop with magazines, either. Department store ads have the same effect: the color-coordinated come-hither. Target, Walmart, and others are all guilty of this, and we can’t seem to stop ourselves once we’ve reached addiction mode. At this stage, everything looks like something we have to have. Our interior decorator minds are racing as we pair up furniture with accessories, clothing with jewelry, rugs with wallpaper, paints with laminates—all generated from the collection of print ads we get in the Sunday paper.

Take back control of your mind and your wallet—stop getting those magazines and Sunday papers (or at least throw out the circulars). You have been gotten to through print, and don’t even realize it! You don’t need new furniture, and you certainly don’t want to buy any of that cheap Chinese crap they sell anyway. You don’t need new bedding or clothing, so put down those department store flyers. Your kitchen will never grace the cover of Good Housekeeping no matter what you do to it, so quit saving those magazines and clippings. Don’t even stop to peruse the weekly wad of pizza ads that the mailman brings. Get mad and tired of others always telling you how you should live, eat, and look—that’s for YOU to decide on your own.

And for a follow-up, we have:

The "Con" in Lexicon

Just so you know--there are no Black Friday deals, only short intense sales of inferior merchandise. Take a closer look at that $400 laptop, and see how much (or little) memory it has. That $239 flat screen TV--how much resolution does it have? The $50 digital camera--how many features does it have? That $300 washer/dryer set--how much capacity does it have, how many features, and how long will you have to wait for delivery?

You can do better by waiting. From December 26 through April 15, you can do MUCH better--that's tax time for leftover inventory, and precisely when you should be doing NEXT YEAR'S Christmas shopping.

Planning Ahead for NEXT Christmas

It's just like all the turkey sales--that stuff has been sitting in the store freezer for a year, untouched, so they're going to mark it down to low prices per long as you buy $25-$50 more stuff in the store. So you get soaked with an old turkey, made overweight by ice, more stuff you really didn't need but got anyway to secure the low price per pound, and ended up paying close to $250 for that Thanksgiving turkey dinner store coupon, and now are stuck with unwanted leftovers...and now you notice that fresher turkeys are cheaper throughout the REST of the year!

I leave you with this thought: do you know how many stores actually mark prices UP for a sale? If you want to know, pick an item and keep track of it--even through a "sale." Chances are good you'll find the item actually marked UP per unit for the sale. Just for fun, lift the sale sign and try to see what the item costs regularly.


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