(Note: this article is part of Volume 18, Issue 2 publication, to view other articles click here. To view the ISSUU version of the magazine click here)

by Ibad Cheema The primary objective of a corporation is to make profit for its shareholders. That is its legal objective. Any activity in which it engages that is unprofitable or contrary to this objective can be questioned by its members and board of directors. It should come as no surprise then that a corporation will do anything to sell its products. This is all well and good but where do we, the consuming public, come in?

We are targeted through marketing. Marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and embedded in our daily lives. It is so well thought-out that unconscious thoughts or desires to consume are not really unconscious. They are most likely a result of clever marketing we encountered sometime in the recent past. Recently there has been a trend in which bigger companies use smart phones as channels to market their products. A recent campaign by Coca Cola in Hong Kong allowed consumers to interact with its ad by capturing bottle caps and earning points using their smart phones (probably ones overpriced and contract-laden) as the ad was playing. This article is meant to present some insights on how to navigate through consumerism consciously.

The ultimate win for marketing is to make a consumer purchase something he/she did not want, need or plan to buy when they stepped into the shop. Creating needs that do not exist is a victory for any marketer. Yet, this is exactly what most of us do. Having a clear idea of what we want to buy before we step into the store can help solve this problem. The more we look at other appealingly displayed and intelligently marketed products we do not need, the more susceptible we are to buy them. If we go in knowing exactly what we want, zero in only on that product and walk out with it, we have achieved victory.

“Creating needs that do not exist is a victory for any marketer.”
Another clever little gimmick that we all fall for is brand-naming. Here is an interesting story for you. Most high end brands (including fashion brands) produce products often in larger quantities than are sold. The aura around the brand name allows them to charge higher prices. Most of the time, however, they cannot sell all their products and have stocks of unsold items. So what do these companies do with their unsold inventory? They exercise one of two options: destroy the product (gasp, right?) or strip all labels off the product and sell it at a wholesaler who then re-labels the same products with tags of cheaper brands and sells them at much cheaper prices. Why would they do such a thing? Profits. Due to the forces of supply and demand and in order to maximize profits, producers need to sell a certain amount of items. If they start selling more products they will need to sell them at lower prices because supply of products is greater than demand of products. If they change the prices, they will make less money from every sale (because similar items are priced similarly, so the price changes on all items in a batch and not just one item). This means two things. Firstly, their brand prestige wont remain (which will impact future profits) because they will be selling their products for cheaper and consumers equate cheaper prices with cheaper quality (oh the irony of it). And secondly, they won’t be able to make as much profit on each sale. So their optimal profit will decrease. Cool story indeed!

So the next time you go shopping, it is perfectly fine if you step into the store with that ‘you can’t fool me’ look on your face.

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