June 17 post – Truth in Advertising is a Myth (Part I)

Business (or, to be more precise, commerce) started out as a simple activity of providing for the necessity of another, such as food, clothing, and shelter in exchange for something.  As time progressed, business began to provide not only for the needs but also for the wants of others.  It was all well and good because things were simple back then.

In ancient times, business’ primary objective and purpose was to provide a product or a service.  Profit was but a side benefit, a bonus.  Providing for each other’s needs and wants was primary; reciprocity was the norm.  To profit on top of it all was simply an extra.  People, then, were more generous.  Generosity was a necessity because people realized the value and importance of cooperation and a sense of community for mutual survival – hence the axiom, No man is an island.

As population grew and man’s needs were more easily satisfied and his wants grew in prominence, money came into the picture.  When we began to produce more than we need, excess labor acitivity, somehow, had to be preserved – in the form of credit.  Money evolved partly due to the need to be able to quantify and measure out only the required value of a particular product or service.  (One cow credit certainly cannot be of the same value as one chair credit.)  So, money (or capital) – in this sense – can be defined as idle labor, hence it is the product of labor.  What product or service that cannot be consumed immediately is converted into money.

Because man has different ways and varying degrees of efficiency in providing goods and services, competition arose.  At the onset, competition was healthy; it pushed business into improving the means of production.  However, competition grew so intense that business turned to research.  Things were still good because the research focused on improving even further production efficiency.  It turned “ugly” only when research went into studying human psychology and consumption behavior.  At this point, business no longer concerned itself with providing for the needs and the wants of consumers but on how to use its knowledge of human psychology against the consumer – to obtain profits.  The shift of its concern occurred when business’ priorities changed – from giving importance to providing goods and services to maximizing profits, often at the expense of the consumer.

Today, when we observe the different commercial ads and product packaging and marketing strategies, we can easily discern patterns that emerge. 

In marketing strategies, business learned that it is not good for consumers to do comparative shopping, that impulse buying is to the advantage of the business.  To this end, some of the strategies used is the playing of loud and mind-rattling “sounds” (they call music) with emphasis on fast tempos.  This type of “music” distracts the consumer and prevents any careful analysis and assessments of the necessity of a product to the buyer.  Applied in stores and shopping centers, the mind becomes occupied with blaring sounds and tends to grab whatever catches one’s eye.  Applied in eateries and dining establishments, it encourages the customer to eat fast and leave – increasing the rate of turnover of the tables.

In product packaging, business learned that consumers are easily attracted to bright-cloored and to shiny and sparkling things – hence their predominance in wrappers and in boxes.  Big words are more eye-catching and easier to read, so the words “FREE”, “% OFF”, etc are much larger and prominently positioned whereas the net weight and product quantity are at the bottom and very tiny.  Differing systems of measurement are employed because business learned that people do not like to make mental conversions from one system to another, to make comparative shopping.

Among the junk foods, the packaging is often filled with air to make it appear bigger and give the impression that the consumer is buying more than what he is actually getting.  It is all under the guise of product protection – so there will be little bruising and damage in transit and in handling.

In commercial ads, business learned that consumers are attracted to youth, to sex, and to pleasure so we are bombarded with images of young people in skimpy, enticing and revealing clothes enjoying all the best in the world – even if youth, the clothes, or the pleasures have nothing to do with the product or service being marketed.

In food, consumers are deceived with words like “FRESH”, “NATURAL”, “PURE”, and the like.  In truth, there is nothing fresh nor natural nor pure about any product found in store.  Employing a little common sense, how can something be marketed as fresh if it has been sitting on the store shelf for days – regardless of how it is packaged, not even if it is vacuum-sealed.  Something is fresh only if there is a short duration between the time it is picked or produced and the time it is bought or consumed – and don’t you philosophize on the length of the duration.

As for being natural, unless you can find the product occurring in the same state as you find it on a store shelf, how can it be called natural?  Also, how can beauty product claim to be able to make you look natural, when all you have to do to look natural is not do anything.  The only thing that will make you look natural is water – which will wash away all the things you put on yourself to make you look “natural”.  Come on, use your common sense; don’t be a fool.

And, with a little investigation, one can find that there is no such thing as pure water in nature.  In nature, water will always have something dissolved in it.  Moreover, granting that pure water is essential for good health (which it is not, but just for argument’s sake), when you put pure water in the freezer…IT SHOULD NOT FREEZE SOLID!  Only with impurities will water freeze in an average freezer.  The freezing point of pure water is -42 degrees C (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nucleation and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercooling) – some may argue on the mistaken notion of zero degrees C, but it is really the melting point.  In fact, if you want to make a little money, you can sue water companies that claim to market pure water for fraud or false advertising if their water freezes in your freezer.

In Part II, I shall focus on the so-called Corporate Social Responsibility.

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