I thought the three marketers’ mind tricks that I named in my last post covered most of the territory. Today an ad popped up in the middle of an interesting article about Fidel Castro‘s subtle rapprochement with his Catholic faith – and I realized there was one I missed. Loyalty bling.
Back in 1979, social psychologist Henri Tajfel began to write about the way people develop a sense of their own identity according to the groups they belong to. Their family, of course, but also the sports team they root for, their favorite brand of beer, dog breed, or political party. Advertisers were not far behind: company logos became design features on everything. Even preschoolers recognize dozens of them. Online marketers send us pictures that match their estimate of the group we are most likely to identify with.
So, in the midst of reading about Fidel’s faith life, I found the text interrupted with an image of a flash drive disguised as a Benedictine medal made of PVC. They know I have a Benedictine connection. They expect that, at least for some, the plastic medal case makes the flash drive 4 times more valuable than the 16GB one I could get for $3.99 at the local drugstore.
Perhaps some have these drives more as an encouragement to prayer than to express an identity. Prayer that I don’t lose the drive, or that the files work as planned. (Uh-oh. St. Benedict is the patron saint of a happy death…)
At any rate, this is one more mind trick to bear in mind this shopping season. Some logo items generate a sense of connection when people gather. But beware the items designed to tickle that sense of identity in a way that won’t, in the end, have much impact.
In the last decade, marketers began using scientific research – neuroscience, cognitive science – to create their ads. It’s been very effective for increasing their sales. The impact on the consumer, though, is primarily negative. These methods bypass our rational processes. They either induce impulsive desires or, even more harmful, generate fear and anxiety that can only be soothed (we think) by making the purchase.
Black Friday is the season when the marketers use their best techniques, first to entice you into a store or onto a website, and then to make purchases – especially unintended ones. Here are 3 of their best mind tricks, with some tips for avoiding falling prey to them:
Black Friday is all about urgency. Continue reading
Sheila, Megan’s mom, spoke to me when I visited her parish. She was dumbstruck. How could Megan, her youngest, the dependable one, surprise her this way? Megan was valedictorian at St. Mechtild’s. She’s doing well in college, a peer minister and teaching assistant, preparing for a super internship. It was a bolt from the blue when Megan told her mom, “I’m thinking of becoming a Sister.”
It’s not that Sheila doesn’t value the Sisters, although she’s never really known one. She wished there was one at her parish, or the kids’ school. She prays the vocation prayer at Mass quite fervently: “Lord, choose from our homes those needed for your work.” But she didn’t mean Megan – not funny, generous, lively Megan!
Website advice helped Sheila a little. The Washington Archdiocese site understood her confusion; they even anticipated her feelings: Why didn’t Megan talk to me first? Won’t she be lonely without a husband? Is she religious enough? But their answers were generic and unsatisfying. The Dallas Diocese gave her practical tips: Be supportive and informed, don’t badger Megan about her vocation or assume it’s just a phase. Sheila wants the best for her. She’s doing her best to follow the expert advice. But she’s struggling.
“What about my turmoil?” she asks. “I’ve spent years preparing to be mother-of-the-bride and grandma, not mother of Sister Megan – or whatever, Sister Mary Anthony.” The websites didn’t help her cope with her own feelings – work she needs to do if she’s going to support and help Megan the way she wants. .
While we were talking, I suggested three realistic things Sheila could do: Continue reading