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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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  • Nov 7 2012: What did you learn about marketing, and from where? How did it affect you? Can we learn something about the question by sharing these stories?

    The only reason I can think of not to share information with children is if it is false information.
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      Nov 10 2012: Hi Lorelei,

      Thanks for your comment, i'll be glad to share

      I grew up without watching much tv, whic was fortunate i would say. There was not a lot to watch on tv back when i was young, and my time outside of school was spent mostly playing in the streets. The only advertisement we kids used to see all the time was that of the brands of chips or the brands of soda that the little store had on their walls and refrigerators. I don't recall more than 10 of these "brands" from back then, but i can tell you that people bought them religiously.

      One of my first experiences was to watch advertisement for disposable mops. They made them sound so much better than regular mops, with phrases like "scientifically proven", "guaranteed", etc etc.

      During those days, at least where i lived, most people used to wash clothes by hand, and squeeze their mops by hand too. I remember very clearly even today how hands that wash clothes and squeeze mops look like. And I remember very clearly (i was probably 8 yrs old or so) thinking to myself that the lady squeezing the mop in the commercial did not have such hands. So it struck me as odd that they would be faking it. Why not use a real person squeezing a real mop? i wondered.

      And the result is that i concluded that they were just faking it. I don't think i ever let go of the feeling from that realization. Why would someone making a commercial need to fake something as simple as like that?

      Well, i guess that is what got me started.

      Eventually i discovered that communication is an interesting subject, and that the way you say something can influence the way it is perceived and processed by other people. That they kind of visual images you see when you hear some words indeed changes the way you perceive those words. That sometimes we are not fully aware of the way we process words in, but we later use that information regularly

      I became critical at a young age, i guess.

      cheers

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