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Intern - Marketing/Sales, trnd Benelux

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Is sensory marketing considered manipulative by appealing to subconscious senses?

As part of my thesis, I am looking to find out to what extent persuading and influencing consumers in their consumption by appealing to (subconscious) senses is considered manipulative.

It is well known that people use, and are influenced by their senses all of the time, whether conscious or subconscious. In order to influence consumers in their decision making process marketers are using this knowledge to persuade or elicit certain emotions in consumers.

To exemplify, think of your supermarket. Sensory marketing efforts are thrown your way as soon as you step in to the supermarket. The smell of fresh homemade bread, use of color throughout the store, and not to forget the effect that food samples and background music has on shopping behavior?
Then, can you still say that the purchase decision ultimately lies with the consumer, or are consumers more (subconsciously) led by marketing and advertising efforts than they realize?

Do you think marketers are manipulating consumers? Or is all fair in love and war (on consumerism)?

As part of my research, I would love to get your thoughts and ideas on the topic. Your feedback is much appreciated.

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    Mar 1 2013: A lot of marketing is manipulative to some degree.

    A well thought out campaign might deliberately push lots of psychological buttons to promote the desired action or behaviour.

    Attractive models or less attractive ones are used for a reason.

    MArketers are perhaps getting smarter at this manipulation.

    MArketing to children is perhaps the most questionable as they lack the much of the limited reasoning and filters adults have.

    In Australia poker machines are prevalent. Same tricks. Little bursts of endorphins, hypnotic displays and sounds.

    Potentially, I can imagine a point where it does go too far. But for the time being I think awareness and self discipline and appropriate regulation to minimise harm, and eternal vigilance to new tricks and technologies.
    • Mar 4 2013: Good point. Going back to the example of supermarkets, I think a lot is aimed at children (candy at children's eye level, receiving toys at the check-out, etc.) but I guess the parents are the ones with the decision making power, and if they are aware and disciplined it's not taking it too far.
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        Mar 13 2013: Tough being a parent when kids are calling out for whatever they saw advertised.

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