Thursday, February 17, 2011

the unadvertised

I was fixing breakfast this morning and thinking about how many things I buy (or could buy) that are heavily advertised, marketed to me in multiple ways more or less non-stop...but then I noticed the things that I choose to buy that are not really advertised at all.

Thinking specifically about food for the moment: is there a word for products whose entire marketing effort is effected by association with a heavily marketed brand?

Taking for example Whole Foods grocery store: the store is marketed heavily, is positioned as the source for high quality foodstuffs in a supermarket styled outfit.  But the actual brands of eggs, cheeses, deli meats, milk, bread, sauces, etc are often companies with little to no advertising exposure.  I am likely to view all of the eggs in the Whole Foods refrigerated case as "quality" by virtue of their presence in Whole Foods, and my selection among them may then be driven by preference for egg size, color, and price...contrast that with the same purchase decision at the local mainline grocery store.  At Kroger's (or what have you), am I more likely to buy the egg brand that does have an advertising campaign, or perhaps be more heavily influenced by the in-store marketing (packaging imagery and slogans, etc)?

Creole Mustard

In a similar way of thinking, consider the decision process that brings a person to buy a "gourmet" mustard at the store; this shopper has likely seen ads for French's Yellow, or Heinz brand sauces, or Grey Poupon, and has come to the Kroger knowing those brands will be available -  but upon arrival in the mustard aisle, sees a few unknown brands on the shelf alongside the market leaders.  Those unknowns may try to distinguish themselves with interesting packaging, perhaps a name that carries a hint of the exotic (maybe a foreign sounding name written in a foreign looking script...), but I would suggest that one of the chief means of marketing the non-advertised brands in this circumstance is pricing: the German mustard with a German sounding name is likely to be priced ~ 10% or more over the well advertised national spicy mustard brand...

Of course, both situations will only "work" with a certain type of consumer, but for marketing to be successful, it only needs to "work" for a decent slice of the buyers out there.

Maybe I've been watching too much Mad Men lately, but I have found myself thinking a lot about more about advertising.


  1. The more I think about sales and marketing, the more I want to detach from the crap-umbilicals that vomit all this stuff upon me. I don't need it, it doesn't need me.

    We watched No Impact Man last night. I'm sure it's messing with my head. But let's all just go to the Farmers' Market. Sure, the market itself may be (somewhat) advertised, and sure, there's the "good by association" thing you've described with the Hole Froods products, but it's got to be orders of magnitude less ensnaring.

  2. or maybe you have just been successfully marketed to by the farmer's market...

    The thing is, I don't think you *can* unplug from the advertising/marketing around you. Simply not watching TV or listening to the radio (or driving down the interstate with blinders on to avoid the billboards) will not free you from seeing the shoes your friends wear, the beer your friends drink, etc.

    I haven't seen the film yet, but is this the guy profiled in the NY Times who lived for a year trying to produce "zero waste"?

    It is not possible to live in the environment and not affect it.

  3. He's under no illusions about that. The "No Impact Man" was a title that was created at the beginning of the project, before he realized what an ass-ache each successive deprivation would be.

    The stated goal was to be more extreme than was reasonable, and by doing so inspire people to take at least a little more interest in individual action.

    They end up emphasizing "do whatever you can" and then "volunteer with local organizations"