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Andres Aullet

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Should we teach our kids about how advertisement (public relationships, marketing) works?

Let's face it, advertisement works.

But let's also admit it, it is not as simple as a creative ad shown during the superbowl or a picture on a magazine that we find funny and incidentally reminds us of some particular brand of chips, or insurance company.

As far as i know (admittedly a much more thorough research can be done), advertisement works because it exploits a few flaws in the way our subconscious work:

- we remember things best when emotion is evoked while we learn them (fear, anger, excitement). And this is due to the chemical changes that these emotions induce in our brain.

- we decide mostly with emotions, and not with reason. This seems counter intuitive to most people

- we live with the ever present contradiction of trying to be unique and trying to be like others. We like to be singled out if we are wearing nice clothing, but we hate being singled out if our pants happen to rip.

- being rejected by our peers, or not being part of the in-group we admire, actually hurts, pretty much in the same way (neurologically) as a punch in the stomach hurts

- anything repeated frequently makes a stronger memory, easier to recall, and a memory that is easier to recall is trusted more (and feels more familiar) regardless of it's veracity

- novel experiences are considered riskier than familiar experiences, regardless of their real inherent risk


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So all these factors are merged with a product and tweaked to make that product appealing and familiar to us, without us fully understanding why it feels appealing and familiar.

Now, recently the target of the advertising industry are increasingly younger kids. And I would venture to say that if many adults don't fully understand why advertisement works, then even less kids would be expected to know

Should we include in a kids education: at schools, in church sermons, at dinner table conversations, an explanation of what advertisement is and why it works? What would be an argument against teaching this?

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    Oct 25 2012: Andres, I do agree with you on much of what you have said. Marketing does work best when it triggers emotions and all marketers know this.

    That said, we are ALL consumers. Even Marketers are. We still need to buy things and we typically buy what we need or what we want. If we want something we don't need - is that the marketers fault OR is it our issue for being weak?

    So the education required here (for adults and children alike) is not just about how marketing really works - it's about due diligence and self control (among a few other fundamental but complex forms of logic)!

    We will always need to buy things. That won't ever go away. So of COURSE marketing is going to live on forever. But we (as consumers) do need to assess what we are exposed to better and we need to check in with ourselves about whether its RIGHT for us or not.

    We are (as a global community) in a world of debt. Why - because we buy more than we need and we need more than we can afford. AND we have very little education on HOW to change this.

    Is that REALLY the fault of marketing?

    P.S. I do take issue with some of the comments below. Saying that all marketers are liars, scammers, profiteers etc. is very accusatory. Even if few and far between, there are actually some marketers on the planet that do what they do because they believe in the companies they do it for AND actually care about those who would likely buy their products.

    P.P.S. An ethical marketer see's marketing as NOT a way to scam people out of their money for a crappy product but a way to educate consumers better so that they can make informed decisions.
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      Oct 29 2012: Hello Cijaye,

      Thank you for your comment,

      I agree with you that we should exert personal responsibility and educate ourselves in order to be less "weak" towards the marketeers message. But I would contend that personal responsibility can only go so far, specially in cases when people do not have the means or the time to get educated regarding everything they are being told by advertisement

      Our time is finite. And given the chance, I would rather spend it learning science, or playing music, and not researching whether a particular brand of electronic devices will provide me with that 1% "differentiation" that will make my life "so much better" than the competing products could

      So it is an a sense an assault on people's, to force them to spend now a large proportion of their time weeding through oceans of information, which is mostly useless from a survival or personal growth perspective, in order to decide which products to buy or whether to buy a product in the first place. There is a misconception i find frequently, that is that if choice is good, more choices is always better... Time is limited though

      I concur with you, and I do not intend this discussion to be an indictment against marketeers. Not all of them are scammers and profiteers. I have tried to turn the discussion from that accusatory stance, to one where we can find the right balance between somebody trying to sell a product, and somebody blatantly lying by concealing relevant information, in order to produce an unnecesary state of dissatisfaction on the "consumers"

      By the way, for some reason I do not like the classification of consumers in the economic sense. We were humans long before there was such a thing as economics, and yes we consumed resources from the environment, but there was no need to promote consumption as a way of life, as i think there is today

      I agree with your last sentence. Giving relevant information to educate people is definitely an ethical way to promote a product

      cheers
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        Oct 29 2012: Great response Andres, and you did make an excellent point that I too should have brought up. The word consumer is an "unfriendly" classification. I use it simply to group those who buy things together - but the reality is - I too very much dislike the term.

        Long story short though - your overall concept of educating youth at a SCHOOL level about how this all works and how they can protect ourselves is very smart and in many ways (I believe) quite necessary.

        P.S. I understand your points about the time drains involved with due diligence, but because I am often one that helps business recover from seriously bad decisions that resulted from NOT doing due diligence, I see that time as quite important (at least for larger investments)

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