10 Shocking Ways Marketers Manipulate Your Mind on the Internet

ways marketers manipulate us online

You’re all out of milk.

Well maybe you aren’t, but for the sake of this story let’s pretend you open the fridge and there’s no milk. That’s right. There’s nothing to transform your dry, grainy cereal into an edible breakfast.

After unsuccessfully experimenting with cereal and orange juice, you go to the grocery store to buy some milk. You walk through the automatic doors and briskly make your way past an elderly couple to beat them to the carts. The produce section is the first thing that greets you, so you pick up some fruit while you’re there.

Then you begin your journey to the back corner of the store where the milk is waiting for you. Along the way you stop to get some more cereal. You turn into the aisle just as a little boy is yelling at his mom to buy Cocoa Puffs. It’s an unfortunate circumstance since you wanted to get Cocoa Puffs but it’ll feel as if you’re taunting the little boy if you pick up a box right in front of him. You compromise and throw a box of Frosted Flakes into your cart.

The junk food aisle is the next aisle over. You quickly walk through and throw a few bags of chips into the cart. Then you finally reach the milk. You carefully place a gallon of 1 percent milk into your cart, head to the register, and pay for your groceries.

So What Does This Experience Have to Do With Marketing?

I just described a pretty routine visit to the grocery store. You may not have realized it, but there are many selling techniques at work within this shopping experience.

The produce section is in the front of the store. It’s there so you select the healthy food when you begin shopping so you won’t feel guilty buying junk food later on. Also, the little boy was yelling for the Cocoa Puffs because sugary cereals are placed on the bottom shelf so children can see them and point them out to their parents.

The point is marketers are always trying to manipulate you to buy their products without you realizing it. They are very strategic when it comes to selling, and you should be aware of their tactics. So here are eight ways that marketers manipulate you on the Internet.

10 Playing With Your Senses

Do you think that your senses are off limits? Think again.

Marketers will manipulate your ability to smell, see, and hear, just to get you to buy their products. Abercrombie & Fitch will spray their perfume, blast loud music, and post advertisements of good-looking models in their stores to attract a young and cool demographic.

Although it is more difficult for marketers to manipulate your senses online, they will still trigger emotion-based purchases by using sight. Marketers work with web designers to concoct a website that is visually pleasing. Advertisements, content, and products are all strategically placed to maximize the number of clicks. Don’t let the design fool you.

9 Social Proof

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new camera but you don’t know much about the different companies and products. You might recognize some of the big brand names but the specific camera name might as well be written in a different language. So after the camera name, what’s the first thing that you usually look for?

The reviews.

Wouldn’t you rather buy a camera with a four-and-a-half-star rating that has 200 reviews over a camera with a five-star rating that has twelve reviews? Great reviews from other customers provide social proof that marketers want to obtain. This makes other people trust their product because there are already many satisfied customers. Re-tweets and Facebook “likes” are other ways for companies to receive social proof.

8 Tracking Your Purchase History

Do you know those cookies the little boy at the grocery store cries for his mom to buy? Well, it turns out that there are also different types of cookies.

The non-edible cookies are on the Internet, and they track your purchase history. Marketers use this information to advertise their product to you because it’s related to a product you’ve previously purchased. Have you ever wondered why you go on a random website and there’s an advertisement for yoga DVDs when you just bought a yoga mat two weeks ago? This ad pops up just for you because the marketers know you might need them.

7 Humanizing Their Brand

Marketers will attempt to make a human connection with you to sell you their products. Usually you know a brand by its company name and logo. It’s difficult to relate to a graphic image and font, but some companies pull it off. For example, there’s an arch under the font in the Amazon logo. This arch is supposed to represent a smile so customers can feel comfortable. Heineken always designs the “e” in its logo to look like a smile.

Brands are also making a human connection through social media. Every once in a while a tweet from a big-name brand will go viral because it made a popular pop culture reference or responded to a celebrity. Brands often tweet just like your friends would so you can feel connected to them on a human level.

6 Using Humor

Marketers will manipulate you by using the dastardliest strategy known to man. They’ll make you laugh.

Companies will try to use humor in their advertisements to build a connection with you. Laughter is more about social acceptance than if something is actually funny. You’re more likely to laugh at someone’s joke to signal you like him or her as a person instead of the quality of the joke. Marketers will try to make you laugh so you will build a human connection with their brand and decide you like them. That way you are more inclined to buy their products.

5 Marking Down Their Prices

This product used to be $200 but now it’s $49.99? What a great deal!

Except it’s not. Online retailers will set the retail price to be really high so their markdown price seems like a bargain. This gives you the perception an item is much cheaper than what other retailers are selling it for. This is obviously a false perception and the retailer is tricking you into buying the product through its website.

The online retailer will also show you how much you’re supposedly saving by putting a percentage next to the price. This is another marketing scheme to add to the illusion of the discounted price.

4 Using Decoys

You have most likely been a victim of decoy pricing at some point in time.

Marketers use this strategy to make their product seem like a bargain when it really isn’t. For example, a medium drink might be $4.50 and a large drink might be $5. You’ll be inclined to purchase the large drink because you think it’s a great deal when compared to the medium drink.

Apple uses this method with its iPhones. It always releases three iPhones at a time, and it wants you to buy the middle priced one. Apple makes the 32 GB iPhone a little more expensive than the 8 GB iPhone so you think the 32 GB iPhone is a much better deal. But in reality, Apple doesn’t care about the 8 GB phone. All it wants you to do is buy the 32 GB iPhone.

3 Creating Fear

Marketers will scare you into buying their product. OK, so they won’t jump out of your computer, grab you, and threaten your life. But they’ll create fear to get you invested in what they have to sell.

All products solve some kind of problem. That’s why the customers demand them. Marketers will take the problem that the product is solving, and try to make it as real as possible. For example, a home security company might have a commercial about the statistics of a home invasion. This makes you want to secure your home and buy the alarm system.

Marketers also use this tactic by telling you their product is almost out of stock. They take advantage of your fear you’ll miss out on a great deal.

2 Enticing You

Marketers will get you on their side very quickly. They will entice you with a visually appealing display, offer you some free but cheap items, and then reel you in to get you to buy the product.

Online marketers use this strategy often, but people have been using it for years. People at trade shows have developed strategic setups and poster displays to bring in customers. Then they offer free coffee or some other incentive. Then they bring you in to a small conference room and try to close the deal. Online, marketers take it up a notch and use all means at their disposal to bring you in. Ads, click-bait titles, flashy images, even the recommendations for other products at the bottom of the page. Just look around next time you’re on the Internet and think about what’s drawing you in each time you click.

1 Telling a Story

Are you a human being? Then you enjoy stories.

The art of storytelling goes all the way back to our ancient ancestors. Stories are something that we cherish, love to tell, and thoroughly enjoy listening to. Everything that happens is a story, and you might not even realize this.

Marketers will try to manipulate you by turning their product or service into a story. They might be endorsed by an athlete or celebrity and create a commercial about how their product motivates that star to do their job. Marketers produce inspiration, and we fall for it every time. Make sure you don’t get caught up in the story before you buy the product.

More in Business