Health Warning! Marketing Executives are Scary Smart

January 29, 2013 — Leave a comment
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Marketing Executives are PhD Smart

Marketing executives are scary smart. I mean they are PhD smart. They work in teams, they know more about your habits, your vulnerabilities, and how to manipulate you than you suspect.

They study videos for hours of your shopping habits. They know your shopping routine. They work with focus groups who answer thousands of questions (source: The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg).

These marketing executives are far ahead of the curve in knowing the next health trend buzzwords. They know that you will consider products that are advertised with words like “gluten-free” and “probiotics” as representing a health-conscious product. That is why you see more and more products in the supermarket with these words proudly displayed on their packaging. There are even candy bars that “contain probiotics.” They know that the public may only have the most rudimentary understanding of the health benefit of probiotics or the source of gluten; but, they know we will buy products that have these words on their packaging.

Many years ago, my household started buying SnackWell cookies because they contained “no fats.”  We bought cookies (Devils Food was my favorite) because a team of PhD consumer psychologists convinced the public that SnackWell products were associated with being “health-conscious.”

Big food companies, like General Mills, Nestle, and Kraft, hire teams of PhD’s from major universities to design marketing programs for their products. Have you seen the new Coca-Cola advertisements that are part of their anti-obesity campaign?

Coca-Cola is taking the position, in their advertising, of leading the fight against obesity! I could discuss the subtleties of Coke’s new ad campaign at length. Here are three points for you to consider:

  • Coca-Cola spends over $1 billion a year in advertising. They do not start a national marketing campaign unless they have previously test marketed that campaign extensively in local markets.
  • Cokes team of PhD’s know that habits are very hard to break. They know the habit loop. When you see a “cue” (an image of Coca-Cola) you will seek the “reward” (a drink of Coca-Cola). It turns out that Coca-Cola’s advertising campaign highlighting the poor health implication of sugary soft drinks (obesity) is also an advertising campaign promoting their diet drinks while at the same time showing images of Coca-Cola.
  • The biggest danger of this new advertising campaign is Coca-Cola wants you to believe all calories are the same. Coca-Cola creates the impression all of us just need to use judgment in how many calories we consume. Be sure and exercise they tell us. Their advertisements imply that just a little exercise is needed to get  rid of the calories in a can of Coke. They shows you examples of what they call “happy activities” you can do to get rid of 140 “happy calories.” This is bad health science. Fructose calories have no nutrients, these calories are converted directly to visceral fat, and they do not satisfy hunger feelings. A can of coke with 140 calories cannot be compared to an apple with 140 calories. Mark Bittman, columnist at the New York Times, had the perfect description for the Coca-Cola ad: “So professional. So brilliant. So smart. And so deceitful.”
  • To view Coca-Cola’s new advertisements click here.

Froot Loops

Another example of scary smart is the packaging of a box of Froot Loops.

  • Froot Loops was made famous by Toucan Sam, its bright and cheerful TV spokesman. Children are highly marketed on the morning children’s shows.
  • Young children are attracted by bright colors (this is psychology working at its best).
  • Parents are persuaded to buy Froot Loops due to Kellogg’s claim of it being fortified with vitamins and minerals. Currently “fiber” is a big buzzword in nutritional health – you can see how prominently this word is displayed on the front of the box.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • Froot is not Fruit.
  • Froot Loops contains 1 g of dietary fiber per serving, which is not a significant contribution to daily needs. Mayo recommends you choose cereals with a minimum of 3 g of dietary fiber per serving. .
  • Harvard school of public health recommends that you be suspicious of any product that has more than 5 g of sugar per serving. Froot Loops has 12 g per serving.

Take Away:

There are powerful and subtle forces that steer you away from making healthy food choices when you are in the supermarket. The next time you shop ask yourself, what would be left in your shopping cart if everything that contains high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sugars was removed? The lesson is to know in advance what foods you intend to buy and stick to your list. There is an old adage to never shop when you’re hungry; yet, if you are leptin resistant you are always hungry. Proper diet is the key to overcoming leptin resistance.

Resource Sites

  • Finding sugar in cereals takes detective work (Harvard School of Public Health) …Click here
  • The Habit Loop …. Click here
  • How To Lose Belly Fat …. Click here
  • To view Coca-Cola’s new advertisements click hereWhat do you think? 

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