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Top 10 Ingenious Marketing Ploys We Totally Bought Into

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Michael Wynands

Well played Capitalism, well played... For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most impressively successful marketing practices the world of consumerism has ever seen, from Misleading Food Advertising & Visual Appeal, to Hip Anti-Advertising and Decoy Pricing. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Ingenious Marketing Ploys We Totally Bought Into.

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Script written by Michael Wynands


Top 10 Ingenious Marketing Ploys We Totally Bought Into



Well played Capitalism, well played... Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Ingenious Marketing Ploys We Totally Bought Into.

For this list, we’ll be looking at some of the most impressively successful marketing practices the world of consumerism has ever seen. We’ll be examining both specific campaigns, as well as marketing techniques in general.

#10: Misleading Food Advertising & Visual Appeal


It’s no secret that advertising aims to make a product as appealing as possible, but nowhere is there a bigger discrepancy between the advertised look of a product and what you actually get than with food. Food stylists have mastered the art of making a burger and fries downright seductive, eliciting a strong bodily reaction from consumers that screams “I NEED that”. In person however, these menu items are often a disappointment. We’re all aware of this disconnect, and yet we still buy into it. Of course, even in person, like at the grocery store, appearances can be deceiving. Freshly misted produce always looks great, regardless of how good those veggies actually taste.

#9: Hip Anti-Advertising


Anti-advertising might sound like the philosophy of someone looking to break free of modern consumer culture, but it’s actually just another marketing tool. The basic concept is this: in a world oversaturated by advertising, in which many consumers have grown jaded and openly critical of traditional ads, how do you recapture their attention? The answer? Taking the B-Rabbit approach and mocking yourself, your own industry or advertisements before they can. It’s actually a technique that’s been around for decades, dating back to 1959 when Bill Bernbach launched a Volkswagen campaign that appealed to its skeptical consumers and thus painted itself as the counterculture choice. It’s brilliant, sneaky, and the key to tapping into youth markets. It’s rebellion commodified, and it works.

#8: Decoy Pricing


Businesses have found a lot of creative ways to manipulate the customer. For example, 20% off the original price means nothing if it’s never actually sold at “full price”. Decoy Pricing is even more manipulative, playing multiple products off each other to maximize profit. If you have one TV priced very low, one very high, and another in the middle, both the presumably “cheap” product and seemingly “overpriced” option make the shopper more likely to get the middle one. The secret is, the salesman was never actually trying to sell you either other option. Other times, a middle option is introduced just below the higher priced product, in order to facilitate an upsell to the most expensive good.

#7: Wedding Registries


If you can generate increased sales while giving consumers the impression that your business is actually doing them a favor, well, you’ve earned yourself a slow clap. Giving gifts at a wedding is a time-honored tradition, but it wasn’t until 1924, that the concept of a wedding registry became a thing. The brainchild of Chicago-based department store Marshall Field’s, the wedding registry allowed the bride and groom to take better control over the gifts they would expect to receive and took the fuss out of shopping for guests. It also just so happened to secure the store a massive sale. Talk about a stroke of pure marketing genius.

#6: Bottled Water


Finally, a physical item to contain water and take it on the go! How convenient! In the age of running water, cups, travel mugs and reusable water bottles, bottled water never should’ve become such a hot commodity, but for whatever reason business started booming in the late ‘70s, and we’ve bought in bulk ever since. Massive environmental concerns aside, it needs to be acknowledged that many bottled water companies, like Dasani, are literally just putting filtered tap water in bottles. But hey, if you can come up with a product that costs you next to nothing and people buy it, you’ve already won the marketing game.

#5: Anthropomorphism


Have you ever watched a disaster film and, after feeling generally indifferent to all the death, suddenly felt very concerned when it looked like a dog was in trouble? You’re not alone, people tend to connect with animals more than with humans. It’s an innocence thing. Advertisers recognize this, but have learned that it works even better when these animals are made to exhibit human-like behaviors. Consider the Geico Gecko… would you have paid as close attention had they employed a human spokesman? Anthropomorphism in advertising actually extends beyond animals to inanimate objects too. We project a lot of human feelings onto both our animals and our possessions, and advertisers have learned to tap into the sentimentality.

#4: Gruen Transfer


Have you ever lost track of time while at the mall, or worse, lost track of why you went in the first place? Of course you have. Malls are designed to achieve just that effect in shoppers. The Gruen Transfer or Effect, is named after architect Victor Gruen, the man who pioneered the concept of a comfortable, well-lit mall with plenty of benches and greenery. His aim was to make shopping pleasant and social. Unfortunately, he did too good of a job, and his mall design was soon bastardized when retailers and owners discovered just how malleable shoppers became in Gruen’s welcoming environment. Though Gruen himself opposed this manipulation, there was no undoing what he’d created - the modern mall zombie.

#3: Gillette’s Creation of a New Thing for Women to Worry About


The pressure placed on women to conform to standards of beauty is a driving force behind consumerism that’s too old and large for any business to take credit for. That being said, there’s always room for innovation in the world of influencing consumers, and with this marketing push, Gillette found a whole new way to make women self-conscious about their bodies. Up until 1915 and the introduction of Gillette’s Milady Décolleté razor, there were no hang-ups about leg or underarm hair on women. Why not? Because there never had been. Women’s fashion started showing more skin, and Gillette saw an opportunity to cash in by suggesting ladies shave those newly exposed areas.

#2: Diamonds as a Symbol of Love


Saving up three months’ salary before popping the question? Worrying about the size of the rock on your finger? The pressure to pick the perfect stone to fit the tastes of your partner? As hard as it is to fathom now… once upon a time, an engagement came without any of these concerns. Yes, some people chose to go with a diamond engagement ring, but it was far from being the standard practice. In 1947 however, that all changed. De Beers launched its now famous “A diamond is forever” ad campaign - and it fundamentally changed the world of proposals. They aimed to make diamonds essential to an engagement, and they largely succeeded.

#1: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day & Other Such “Hallmark Holidays”


Though holiday-related industries can’t take responsibility for creating holidays like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Grandparents Day, they have certainly done a remarkable job of commodifying them. Usually conceived of as a day of gestures and a time to pay respect and honor important family members, these secular holidays have instead been transformed into excuses for ready-made cards and gifts. Valentine’s Day is arguably the greatest success of them all. Though supposedly about love, Valentine’s Day has been made into an occasion on which love is measured by how much one spends. And sure enough, most of us just go along with it.

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