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Marketing


  • Your Friends are Marketing to You (How to Like Them Anyway) (22 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. Your friends may be marketing to you. I know: I’m taking the internet-shocking tactic I hate seeing elsewhere, but if I didn’t have evidence in my very inbox from (as I’m writing this post) three minutes ago, not to mention The New York Times and other well-regarded media, I would still have all the stuff that’s not headline material. You probably know it as “keeping up with…

  • How Retailers Manipulate Consumers (90 comments)

    In the past, I’ve written several times about the insidious power of marketing. In 2007, I shared a guest post from Malcolm Gladwell on the same subject. My thesis is this: A lot of people like to believe they’re immune to advertising and marketing; a lot of people are wrong. In fact, I suspect (although I have no hard evidence) that those who are most adamant that marketing doesn’t affect them are probably the most…

  • Avoiding Competitive Shopping For Fun and Profit (79 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. As a personal finance writer and editor, I have watched many a Black Friday with a mix of fascination and horror. For some of those years, I was involved in the packaging of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as AOL ad sales people pushed us to develop a series of posts, videos, and photo galleries leading up to and culminating in the event, including one year when…

  • All Value is Perceived Value (44 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. A lot of folks hate advertising, and it’s hard to blame them. But in a 2009 TED talk, ad man Rory Sutherland argues that what advertising creates — perceived value — doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. If you want to live in a world with less Stuff, for example, your two options are: Live in a world that’s poorer, which most of us don’t want to do….

  • Why Are There No Ads Urging Us to Save? (39 comments)

    This is a guest post from Rob Bennett, a long-time GRS reader. Bennett created the first retirement calculator that contains an adjustment for the valuation level that applies on the day the retirement begins. The Cat in the Hat and the Grinch. Who’s the miser? Who’s the spendthrift? Nearly everyone is going to say that the Cat in the Hat is the spendthrift and that the Grinch is the miser. The Grinch is selfish and…

  • Comic Book Ad from 1956: How I Made a Small Fortune in Spare Time! (19 comments)

    Last month, I mentioned that I got my entrepreneurial start as a kid by selling stuff door to door. This “stuff” generally comprised products advertised on the back of of comic books: seeds, greeting cards, and so on. For more than thirty years, companies recruited armies of salesboys and salesgirls through comics. I was one of them. But it wasn’t just kids they recruited. I was reading an October 1956 issue of Blackhawk — a…

  • Who’s Spying on (and Profiting from) Your Browsing Habits? (37 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. One of the fastest-growing businesses on the Web is tracking data about your Internet use — everything from comments you leave on websites to health information and financial status — and selling it to companies that want to target ads to specific customer profiles. Algorithms are even used to make predictions about you based on your profile, from how likely is it that you’ll repay a…

  • My Advertising Crash Diet (62 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday, and in large part that’s because I spend it camping in Terlingua Ranch and hiking, backpacking, or kayaking in Big Bend National Park (about 15 minutes away from the ranch). I get mixed reactions when I tell people that’s how my family celebrates the holiday. Yes, we do have turkey — slow-cooked over a fire no less. Yes, we do bring…

  • MousePrint.org Exposes the Pitfalls in Fine Print (16 comments)

    Does fine print drive you crazy? Like me, do you find yourself wading through 63-page credit card agreements — trying to understand the legalese but often failing? Don’t you wish there were a site that highlighted the lunacy of this stuff? Well, there is. Mouse Print is a blog devoted to “exposing the strings and catches buried in the fine print” of all sorts of offers and agreements. Here’s what Edgar Dworsky says about his…

  • The Subtle Power of Product Packaging (88 comments)

    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…

  • Use Personal Marketing to Persuade Yourself to Save (46 comments)

    This is a guest post from Lynn Brem, who writes one of my favorite sites, Take Back Your Brain! TBYB! is all about advertising to yourself, about using marketing tools to help meet your goals. Persuasive messages are all around us. In fact, Adbusters estimates that we’re exposed to as many as 5000 marketing messages every day. They’re embedded in news, entertainment, information, transportation — even in our food and clothing. Several properties are shared…

  • Ask the Readers: How Much Money Would it Take For You to Compromise Your Principles? (207 comments)

    An Allegory There was once a man who became a vegetarian. Because he believed that all living creatures have souls, he swore he would never again consume animal flesh. For three years, he ate only vegetable matter. People offered him money to eat meat, but he steadfastly refused. “Will you try a turkey sandwich for $2?” a woman asked one day. “No,” he said. “Will you try this hot dog for $20?” a little boy…

  • The Good Consumer (36 comments)

    In my favorite section of David Mitchell’s brilliant Cloud Atlas, Sonmi-451 is a clone who works in a fast-food restaurant in near-future Korea, a society ruled by corporcracy (a government of corporations). In this seemingly utopian world, citizens are consumers, and their purpose in life is to spend. Commonplace items are known by their brand-names: a theater is a disneyarium, a video display is a sony, a vehicle is a ford. Television is not TV,…

  • Black Friday — Or Not? (82 comments)

    This weekend will be important for U.S. retailers. They’ll be counting their pennies carefully. With retail sales already down sharply from 2007, merchants are eager for a strong start to the holiday shopping season. The day after Thanksgiving — now dubbed “Black Friday” — has become something of a ritualized cultural experience, and one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Many people view the day as a chance to grab stellar deals on…

  • The Never-Ending War Against Advertising (90 comments)

    I spoke with a reporter the other day. She was looking for ways to fight the urge to shop. “My top tip is to avoid advertising,” I told her. “That sounds nice,” she said, “but how do you actually do that?” I talked about how I used to read comic book blogs and participate in comic book forums, and how doing these things led me to increase my spending on comics. When I stopped visiting…

  • Marvelous Magazine Ads from 1904 (33 comments)

    This post contains many scanned images. Click on any detail to see a larger version. I believe that one of the best ways to reduce spending is to limit your exposure to advertising. Marketers employ powerful persuasive techniques to circumvent our rational minds, encouraging us to spend our hard-earned money on things we don’t really need. This isn’t anything new. Advertising has been a pervasive part of American culture for more than a century. I…

  • Why I Fought to Save Three Bucks (and Why You Should Too) (201 comments)

    This guest post comes from Donna Freedman, a blogger at MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog. Donna is one of my favorite personal finance writers. This is a reprint (with permission) of one of her recent pieces. On Friday I visited Office Depot for school backpacks at the killer price of $2.99. Along with other loss-leader school supplies, they’ll be donated to a local social services agency. At the checkout, I handed over a “20% off…

  • The Story of Stuff (131 comments)

    Every time I write about Stuff, readers point me to The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute video about where Stuff comes from and where it goes. Until today, however, I’d never taken time to watch it. According to the web site: From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a…

  • Reader Story: Beware of Scams and Pyramid Schemes (107 comments)

    In the past, I’ve shared the story of the worst job I ever had. In a lot of ways, it felt like I was part of a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing operation. I’ve been approached to participate in similar operations since then: once by my veterinarian (?!?) and once by a stranger in a book store. Sometimes you cannot tell a scam is a scam until you see it up close, and then the…

  • How to Stop Junk Mail in Its Tracks (59 comments)

    This article is part of Financial Literacy Month. Most Americans receive a daily flood of junk mail. Some savvy citizens take a stand against the torrent. My friend Pam gets great delight from calling the sender of every catalog she receives in order to be removed from their mailing lists. This works well, but there are easier ways to deal with the problem. Here’s a list of four tools you can use to keep the…

  • Why We Shop: Getting a Grip on Consumerism (27 comments)

    This is a guest post from Betsy Teutsch, who writes about socially responsible investing, savvy consuming, and sustainable living at Money Changes Things. Advertisers spend billions of dollars honing techniques to urge us to buy stuff; it certainly behooves us to be self-analytical and better understand the many triggers behind shopping. Here are some of the main reasons we buy things: Meeting needs The most basic reason we buy things is simple: need. We need…

  • How to Inoculate Your Children Against Advertising (91 comments)

    This is a guest post from Lisa Tiffin, a freelance writer who covers food, lifestyle, business, and green living. I have a confession to make: I like commercials. Even though they can be boring, insulting, and just plain bothersome, on some level they intrigue me. I often wonder why certain ads fail miserably while others succeed in catapulting a brand to the forefront of store shelves. I like commercials because I enjoy guessing which will…

  • How to Handle a Door-to-Door Salesman (182 comments)

    On Saturday morning, a young man knocked at our door. He wanted to sell us new windows. Kris tried to brush him aside gently, but he was persistent. He didn’t leave until he’d scheduled an appointment to give us an hour-long in-home presentation about his company’s product. “We do need storm windows,” Kris told me after he’d gone. “That’s true,” I said. “But I don’t like buying from door-to-door salesmen.” The worst job I ever…

  • Ads I Hate: Athletic Clubs (81 comments)

    For the past few months, a gym to which I used to belong has been sending me “special offers” in an attempt to entice me to return. Because I’ve begun focusing on fitness, these almost work. But so far frugality has prevailed. It bugs me, though, that the “limited time offer” isn’t so limited. First it expired at the end of November, then the end of December, then the end of January, and now the…