We are constantly blasted with advertising and also more subtle efforts to make us spend more (yeah, I know – including on this blog!). But when you are on a budget, it pays to get savvy to the marketers’ clever strategies to get us to loosen the purse strings. With this in mind, I thought I would put together a list of some marketing ploys to ignore to save money.
What you need to realise is that the cost of the marketing is built into the price of these branded items. They may be 30% more expensive, but that doesn’t mean they are 30% better!
Don’t, don’t believe the hype
Before you get drawn into the hype and are tempted to buy designer and branded items, it pays to remember a couple of things.
You are likely to be paying for a whole host of TV, magazine and social media advertisements within the cost of an item. As well as this, you are helping to employ large in-house marketing departments and external PR agencies whose sole purpose is to make you buy stuff.
The development and marketing teams will have agonised over every detail, from the brand name, the packaging, advertising and other ways to raise awareness of the product and make you part with your hard earned cash.
They run promotions, competitions, get product reviews published, and place ads, both on social media and in the more traditional media too.
Increasingly, the marketers get your favourite Instagrammers and celebrities to endorse their products by paying them lots of money.
As my wise old dad always told me, ‘You are just paying for the name’. This all costs and someone has to pay for it. As the customer, that will be you then!
Being aware of the work of the marketers behind the scenes will help you to decide if something is worth the money and will really do what it claims to do.
Here are some of the marketing ploys you can ignore to save money.
1# Shop the bottom shelves first
Brands actually pay supermarkets to place their well known, higher priced products at eye level on the shelves where you will spot them first. Usually you will find better value if you look lower down.
Here you will find the supermarket’s own brand and so-called ‘value’ products.
The trick is to compare prices. When you find that the supermarket own brand item is half the price of the branded one, you may decide that it is worth trying the cheaper one. However, be aware that they sometimes deliberately place toys and treats lower down at kiddie height!
2# Recognise pseudoscience for what it is
I think that the best examples of pseudoscience used in marketing are found in the adverts for cosmetics. The beauty industry is massive and hugely profitable.
But anyone who has used, say, an expensive moisturiser will know that they don’t work any better than a cheap one. At least, the results are negligible in my experience. For years I used Aldi’s £1.99 day cream, just to stop my skin from being dry, which it did. It probably didn’t minimise fine lines, but I have also tried £40 pots and they didn’t either!
How do you measure claims that certain products ‘revitalise’ your skin? How many independent studies have been done to test the claims of manufacturers that creams are anti-ageing or ‘plump up fine lines’?
Everyone knows that the glossy pics showing celebrities with flawless, wrinkle free skin are photo-shopped, so why do so many of us fall for this stuff? If the claims for beauty products sound too good to be true, that is because they probably are.
3# Ignore the ‘time is running out’ messages
You have probably seen the ‘once they are gone, they’re gone!’ type signs in shops, tempting you to buy an item quickly before this particular brand of coffee/crisps/washing powder runs out. The marketers excel at creating a false sense of urgency. Even if you don’t really want that item, it makes you think!
I have noticed this popping up a lot on retail websites. Even on eBay I often see ‘limited quantity remaining’. However, I know that no one controls the stock showing other than the seller. Just because they only have 50 items showing, it doesn’t mean they don’t have another 50 in store.
Limited edition is another of the marketing ploys to ignore to save money. Again, it creates a sense of urgency to buy. Cadbury’s did this cleverly recently with the limited edition orange Twirls, with packs selling at hugely inflated prices on eBay because they couldn’t easily be found on the shop shelves.
Great publicity for Cadbury. However, business is business, and if they are popular it’s only a matter of time before orange Twirls are produced en masse (then the novelty will wear off!).
4# Check that BOGOFs are really a good deal
I will pick up a BOGOF – buy one get one free – or similar deal from time to time. However, I always check that it is actually cheaper.
Assuming it is, you then need to ask yourself if you would have bought it anyway. If you would, then you will be quids in. BOGOF deals on toiletries or staples you frequently use can be really good value. However, if you buy a large amount of something perishable, will you actually use it before it goes off?
As these offers tend to be for branded items, I also check if two of the supermarket own brand product will be cheaper than the BOGOF deal.
5# Be wise to the ‘white coat effect’
You have see the toothpaste adverts, where an apparently real dentist is endorsing the properties of such and such a product. However, they are being paid! They might really like the product, but that doesn’t mean they don’t rate similar, cheaper products as well.
Getting an apparent expert to endorse a product has been working since doctors told the public that cigarettes were good for them. Definitely to be taken with a pinch of salt.
6# Round up the prices
As businesses continue to do use this technique, I assume it still works. Psychologically, £2.99 may only be a penny cheaper than £3, but our brains are likely to hone in on £2.
I always make a point of rounding up irregular prices to the nearest pound – not down!
7# Know that marketers create products we never needed before and sell them as essential
This is a big one for me. A good illustration of businesses creating products that we don’t really need but somehow have become essentials is in the cleaning products industry.
How our great grandparents survived with just two or three products in their cleaning cupboard rather than 20 I just don’t know!
The fact is, you don’t need one spray for your shower, another for your kitchen sink, one for the bathroom, but a different one for the kitchen work surfaces. If a product cleans your bathroom effectively, it will clean your kitchen as well.
Fashions change like lightning. But you really don’t need to change your furniture every few years or throw your barely worn clothes out every season. We are constantly being sold images of perfection that make us believe that we do. This is the reason I stopped reading glossy magazines some years ago. Now I have to edit my Instagram feed.
The marketers make us believe we need to buy things when the reality is that they need to sell us things.
8# New and improved is just the old tweaked
Another of the marketing ploys to avoid to save money is the ‘new and improved’ claims seen so often on product packaging.
Manufacturers only need to slightly tweak the formulation of their products to use this new and improved claims. The chances are, as consumers, we really won’t notice the difference.
9# Money off coupons and vouchers
Like BOGOFs, money off coupons are only good if you would have purchased the product anyway. It is rare to find supermarket own products in these deals, which are very often cheaper even with the coupon.
That’s not to say they are all bad. I always peruse the coupons that arrive with my loyalty card vouchers, as they are often based on previous purchases.
However, I don’t worry about time limited £5 off when you spend £60 type offers. With just me and Mr S at home now, we rarely spend that much! They can be useful if you are buying for the family though.
There are, of course, expert extreme couponers who manage their whole shop with coupons, like Jordon Cox. However, I find the offers tend to be on treat and junk food items, which I don’t usually buy, so this is one of the marketing ploys to ignore on the whole.
10# Be aware of how they target your children
Advertisers know the value of children’s nagging power. That’s why they spend so much on cute characters, associations with films and TV programmes and brightly coloured packaging to appeal to your kids.
They blast TV adverts out at the times your kids are likely to be watching, especially near Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc.
Children have influence over their parents purchases around food, clothing, entertainment and more. Any parent will know that pester power can wear you down. You have to be pretty strong not to give into it from time to time!
So how do we minimise the impact of clever marketing on our kids? I found the following helped:
Limit the amount of TV time your kids have.
Comment on the adverts – ‘I have seen those, they never work as well as the ads claim, are bad quality’, etc.
If you can leave them at home when you shop, do!
Discourage brand loyalty and the lure of designer stuff. Tell them constantly, like my dad did, that they are ‘just paying for the name’ and can find trainers or whatever just as good elsewhere.
There is an interesting article here about how advertisers market products to children.
I am not saying I am never drawn in by clever marketing and sales strategies. However, being aware of how it works means that I know the marketing ploys to ignore.
It doesn’t mean that some of these products aren’t actually as good as it says on the tin. They may well be literally the best thing since sliced bread.
It also doesn’t mean you should slap yourself if you find an advert that draws you in. I have found some great new companies with really nice products popping up on my Instagram feed, for example.
I also love the Aldi product comparison adverts, as I know they are based on fact. In my experience, Aldi products are almost always every bit as good as (or in some cases superior to) branded items.
In fact, I prefer to buy products from smaller, independent businesses much of the time. They don’t have shareholders to pay, probably do the marketing themselves and, because reputation is everything, are likely to be more honest (in my opinion, anyway).
What do you think? What are your chosen marketing ploys to ignore to stop you buying what you don’t need?
If you have trouble reining in your spending, you might also like to read this post: how to stop spending and build will power.