7 Sneaky Food Marketing Strategies Designed to Trick You


All of those “buy 2 for the price of 1” supermarket or massive chain-store deals sound appealing, don’t they? Well, you may not be getting the deal you think you are. Many so-called deals are nothing more than clever food marketing tactics. Translation: many times, you may end up spending more than you intended.

Here’s what to watch out for while shopping.

1. Attention-Getting Colors and Designs

Getting your attention is what sales are all about. A drab store filled with bland boxes and boring end displays will hardly entice consumers. But brightly-colored cereal boxes and unique designs are attractive to many people. Unfortunately, much of this food marketing strategy applies to junk foods. Think about all of those potato chip and cookie bags. If it’s bold, has a shiny foil wrap, or a large font that “screams” out to you, that’s food marketing and branding at it’s best — and it’s not always good for your health. But it is good for many food giant’s bank accounts.

2. The Before and After Notion

Those too-good-to-be true markdowns? Be careful. The “after” price is usually what the actual price should be. However, seeing a more expensive, marked-up cost slashed down makes you think you’re getting the steal of the century.

3. It’s All in Your Walk

Researchers have discovered that most people shop the way they drive (interesting, right?), so if you drive on the right side of the road then you tend to walk that way while shopping. Therefore, items are stocked based on that concept. It’s no coincidence that you find yourself putting things in your cart that aren’t even on your shopping list; marketers count on this!

4. Oh, Look How Cute That Is!

Those cute teeny cans of soda or on-the-go cheese sticks? Food marketers know that small packaging generates big spending. Because some of these mini products often come with a reasonable price tag, you’re more likely to pick two or five up. And up goes your bill.

5. You Found That Where?

If you ever pondered why fingernail files are near greeting cards or other odd placement variations, well, it’s intentional. According to University of California’s marketing professor Wendy Liu, this is mostly about getting you to buy on impulse. You’re sending a card to a friend, so hey, why not take do something nice for yourself and take care of your nails while you’re at it? She explains that such distractions are intentional, giving you a false sense of product attachment. In your cart it (usually) goes.

6. You’re Made to Feel Special

Many stores advertise a limited-time only deal or quantity of a product, making you think you have to act now to get in on a great deal. This must be your lucky day! Truth is, you’re falling into the “bulk bargain” trap. Chances are, you don’t need to buy 8 pounds of coffee now to get in on the so-called deal of a lifetime. That coffee will be there next week.

7. That Smells Great!

Finally, researchers are very cognizant of how smell and sound can attract customers. Stores that sell food samples that sizzle on mini-grills and the sounds of a gentle thunderstorm erupting as you reach for some lettuce are examples. In fact, it was found that when experts pumped in the smell of apple pie in an appliance store, refrigerator sales increased nearly 25%. It’s all about creating sensory experiences that mimic what you might encounter in your own home.

So, do your best to stick to that grocery list. Cross off each item as you go and when tempted by bright colors, clever slogans, or a “cheap” but fun nail polish color (located near the birdseed), ask yourself if it’s truly necessary. Even better, avoid mass store chains and shop local if you can. You’ll be supporting local businesses and probably won’t be faced with tactics that clutter your mind and epty your wallet.

Happy shopping!

Other articles you may enjoy:

6 Ways Grocery Shopping is Like Dating

Healthy Foods that Double as Beauty Products

Follow Jennifer Lea Reynolds @JenSunshine or on her Facebook page, FlabbyRoad.

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