by Damon Carr
For New Pittsburgh Courier
There’s an expression spoken in Latin—“Caveat Emptor.” In English, it means, “Let the Buyer Beware.” In other words, the buyer is responsible for ensuring the goods and services are of good quality and suitable before purchasing. We, the buyer, must reasonably examine property before we buy it. We, the buyer, are responsible for its condition. In the automotive industry, you’ll see cars being sold “as is.” Cars that are sold “as is” come with no warranty, no protection. We, the buyer, are responsible should the car turn out to be a piece of junk.
I want you, the potential buyer, to beware that “They’re out to get YOU!” Who are “They?” That’s an excellent question! In this article, “They” are the marketing geniuses of the world. From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, “They” will impress upon you and me millions upon millions of marketing messages with one goal in mind! Their goal is to EXTRACT MONEY from YOUR pocket to theirs! They’re winning! Can you hear me now?
That phrase, “Can you hear me now?” was just an expression we’d use in the past when someone was having trouble hearing us. It was a tagline created by Verizon in its advertising and marketing back in 2002. Those ads ran for nine years. They ended in 2011. It is now 2021.
It’s been 10 years since the last ad ran. Yet, when you hear those words today, you can’t help but think of Verizon. When marketing and advertising has the ability to etch something into our minds, make it a cultural thing or influence the narrative of the day, that’s freaking genius.
When I was a kid, there was a popular commercial with this “jingle”—“Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun.” People my age or older are now singing that jingle after being reminded of it. Trust me. They know the song word-for-word. For those of you who are too young to remember, that was a McDonald’s jingle back in the mid ‘70s and early ‘80s. We used to sing that jingle like it was a song. We scream to our parents that we wanted McDonald’s. We ate plenty of McDonald’s back then. This is why today, McDonald’s is sitting on piles of cash and “Loving it!”
I solicited the help of Tracy McDonough, who is an adjunct professor at CCAC North. She teaches Marketing and Public Relations. This is one of a couple of articles that we will collaborate on. On the subject of Marketing, Tracy had this to say:
“Marketers still have much in common with the snake oil salesmen of previous generations. Salespeople and promoters are still very willing to use tricks and gimmicks to get otherwise smart, savvy consumers to part with their money—gleefully part with it, even. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the rush of a new purchase? Marketers grow this enjoyment by making us feel like not only did we just grab the newest and greatest hot item, but we got a deal in the process. WRONG!”
“Consumers rarely (read, never) come out on top. Here’s why. Retail markups range from 100-2,500 percent depending on the product category. Think about that. Lowest markups are in grocery stores and new cars. Highest markups are jewelry, prescriptions, and eyeglasses. I recommend the site wisebread.com to look up specific categories. For instance, a sweater at Macy’s is priced at $60. Clothing is marked up 100-350 percent. High-end stores and brands have higher markups. So, if Macy’s marked up the sweater by 200 percent, then it started at $20. This means 50 percent off is still costing you $10 more than the actual worth. But psychologically consumers leave the store joyfully because they ‘think’ they got a DEAL.”
“Deals are never gotten during peak shopping seasons like Christmas. Many retailers mark up even higher right after Halloween, so they can “offer” buyers even bigger, so-called deals.”
McDonough continued: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend! Um….no!! Remember these are merely polished pieces of carbon that dinosaurs once pooped on. But because a few suppliers control inventory, and Zales has convinced us that diamonds are forever, they have become desirable items with extreme markups (250-1,000 percent). In reality, diamonds aren’t even rare. It’s just that De Beers controls the supply.”
“Marketers also appeal to you with tricks like music, colors, and cute characters to stir you to buy emotionally. Malls are set up to sway your emotions from entry to exit. Music overhead, beckoning signs with words like hot, value, clearance, etc. They offer lights and colors to heighten your excitement. Buyers are lured to make purchases to extend that feeling at home.”
“Marketers also appeal to other emotions like feeling safe and secure, your self-esteem and feelings of love and acceptance.”
Thanks so much, Tracy, for chiming in! It’s Damon here…like I said, “Buyer Beware!” They’re out to get YOU! Don’t take my word for it. Tracy’s the marketing professor. As you can see from what she had to say, when it comes to crafting up marketing materials, advertising campaigns and jingles—“They” have a plan to entice you to spend, spend, spend. Then spend some more. Capital One is perhaps one of the more blunt advertising campaigns. They flat out ask you, “What’s in your wallet?”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with buying stuff. We simply have to be on the defense and protect our hard-earned dollars! We have to beware that we have to make some of these hard-earned dollars work for us. We have to preserve some of our dollars by not spending it all —but saving some of it to build and create an asset base that we can be proud of. We don’t want to just be a collector of stuff that has no intrinsic value. Stuff we purchased because we were influenced by marketing. Even if you bought the stuff because a friend or family member told you. It’s called word-of-mouth advertising. They were sold first.
“Caveat Emptor:” When you, the buyer, ensures that you’re always putting your best interest forward—no marketing campaign can sell you short!
(Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached @ 412-216-1013 or visit his website @ www.damonmoneycoach.com.)