I get frustrated when I meet people who don’t think advertising affects them. Advertising does affect you. And, in fact, I’d argue those who believe they are immune are probably most likely to be influenced.

How powerful are advertising and marketing? In 2007, I shared an excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in which the author describes how product packaging affects our perceptions.

In front of us was the beverage section. Rhea leaned over and picked up a can of 7-Up. “We tested Seven-Up. We had several versions, and what we found is that if you add fifteen percent more yellow to the green on the package — if you take this green and add more yellow — what people report is that the taste experience has a lot more lime or lemon flavor.”

In other words, a product’s taste isn’t just affected by the ingredients; it’s affected by the packaging too! Advertising and marketing influence us in myriads subtle ways, and in-store marketing can be just as powerful as any other form.

Here’s a recent real-life example of how product packaging has an impact on our buying decisions. Last December, Tropicana introduced a new carton for its “Pure Premium” citrus juices. The old packaging featured a distinctive logo and an iconic “straw stuck in an orange” image. The new packaging was bland and generic.

No other changes were made to the product. The taste was the same and the cost was the same. All that changed was the packaging. If this sort of thing made no difference to sales, if consumers were not influenced by in-store marketing, then this package redesign shouldn’t have mattered.

But we are influenced by in-store marketing, and the package redesign did matter. It mattered a lot. According to last week’s Advertising Age, Tropicana’s sales for “Pure Premium” juices dropped by 20% between January 1st and February 22nd. In the business world, a 20% drop in sales is huge — especially when you consider that Tropicana’s competitors posted double-digit sales increases over the same period.

Tropicana, of course, denies any connection between the package redesign and the decline in market share. All the same, they’re bringing back the old packaging. It sure sounds like there’s a connection to me.

I’m not arguing that you should (or could) avoid advertising and marketing. I’m just asking you to be aware that it’s very real and very powerful, and it affects you — even if you think it doesn’t.

Photo by Justin Lai.

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