Being a Smart Consumer in an Ad Driven World

Our daily lives are saturated with advertisements marketing every facet of need and desire.  As we drive to work, billboards catch our eyes with bright colors and clever lingo.  The radio blasts catchy jingles that get stuck in our heads.  When you use Google search, advertisements take the front and center of the results.  Email and snail mail inboxes are flooded with the latest “can’t miss” specials, and even our Facebook news feed gets diluted with sponsored ads.

Marketing campaigns prey on our basic human instincts.  So how can we become smart consumers?

Step 1:  Realize that you are being targeted


By acknowledging that your attention is being sought out to elicit a specific response, you are taking control of the situation right from the get-go.  TV commercials that propose a simple question, “Hungry?” are playing on your most basic need.  They hope to draw you in with images of piping-hot, juicy food.

Step 2:  Let the message sink in and think before you act


Marketing intends to create a sense of urgency, compelling you to act fast before the opportunity has passed.  Simply put- sometimes you find a good deal, but no matter how brief the opportunity seems, there is always another good deal on its heels.

Step 3:  Evaluate your needs versus wants


Sure, it is in our DNA to want to sink our teeth into fatty, sugary foods, but are you truly hungry in this moment?  Of course it would be nice to have that fancy new car, but is your current vehicle doing the job?  Those expensive boots may be on sale, but are the ones you have on your feet so bad?  Make a list of the pros and cons of your proposed purchase- either mentally or written on paper- before you act.

Step 4:  Acknowledge the timing


Okay, so maybe you’ve decided this purchase is something you truly need or value having.  Now, is the timing right?  We tend to act impulsively while under the influence of advertising.  Take a moment to decide whether acting now is imperative, or whether you could benefit from making a plan to ensure your purchase is done responsibly.

There are many other factors that can be used to evaluate our purchases.  Here are some things to consider for the major fields of marketing:

Food and Drink

Is the food healthy?  Affordable?  Organic, non-GMO, and hormone free are highly sought after qualities these days.  Learning to read labels and ask questions will make you feel more confident in your decisions.

Material Goods


Where was this product created?  What is it made of?  Was it created fairly under circumstances that you approve of?  Each purchase you make is an opportunity to cast your vote with your money.



Is this an experience that will enrich your life?  Do the funds benefit a cause that you like to support?  Our possessions may come and go, but memories will be with us for our entire lives.

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