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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

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 10 2012: I do agree that marketing uses psychological strategies. I don't even think that's debatable. However, if we didn't have useless things to sell we wouldn't have much to sell at all. I don't think the problem is market manipulation...because I think that's a byproduct of whatever market you facilitate. I see hope with creations like digital book readers and things of that nature. Innovation in this direction could definitely use a market push. This may require us to use those same strategies. Great post...I think you have it right. I just think it’s part of the system. Our system is ok...we just need to tweak some gears inside.
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      Nov 10 2012: Hi Henry, thank you for your comment,

      Interesting perspective, "if we didn't have useless things to sell we wouldn't have much to sell at all". You got it quite right. I guess that is another way of looking at the wants vs. the needs.

      As it is usual in me, i am not for an all or nothing. I don't see it realistic or desirable to advocate for selling only needs and banning sale of wants.

      Not so sure that my assessment is as optimistic as yours regarding the system though. I think that it is a working system and it may not need to be replaced completely, but i think that the tweaks are much more than superficial.

      I think that the conversion from wants to needs should be done by the individual, and of course it will depend on influences, but the individual should be left to decide (and be aware) of the influences chosen


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