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Are you a benhad? When it comes to the services you purchase and the physical items you buy, are your choices truly your own? Or, is what you think is your own choice, one that has been cleverly implanted into your mind by the advertising world and the marketing industry?
Nowhere have more people been 'trained' to think a certain way about their choices than in the purchasing of food and related items. Case in point: Recently, I bought a bottle of vitamin B12. The bottle contained 30 small tablets, yet it was large enough to contain 100 more tablets. I'm confident the bottle which will soon end up in the landfill, cost me more than the 30 tablets inside.
How does this happen? Because bigger is always better, right? Without conscious thought, most would purchase 30 tablets in a large bottle rather than 30 in a small bottle. Somehow, we feel like we are getting more for our money, when in fact all we're doing is wasting money and contributing more to the trash pile.
The food industry has trained us to value eye appeal over taste. Let's say you're giving a fondue party. That right, the party Henry Fondue and his daughter Jane made so famous in the 70s. The one where everybody pierces something with a skewer and then dips that something into a substance in a heated pot.
The highlight of your party will be chocolate dipped strawberries. Off to the market you traipse with shopping list in hand. First item on the list, strawberries. No tough decisions here, there are only two types strawberries to choose from at this market.
You see a display of strawberries. They look a little smaller than what you had in mind. A little sign says they're sweet, delicious, and were grown in the eastern part of your state. You'd like to help your local growers, but gee, will they make a big impact at the party?
Aha! Here's what you want. Shipped from 3000 miles across the country are the biggest, brightest red strawberries you've ever seen in your life. They are the size of golf balls! Yes! These will make a great impression on the party guests. You grab 3 trays and hold them affectionately to your bosom.
Later at the party, you get lots of compliments on the chocolate dip you made from scratch, but not a word about the humongous strawberries. What gives? You do a taste test to see.
The dip really is quite good, but as you hone your mind in on the strawberry, you don't find a distinct strawberry taste. If the berry has any taste at all, it's hidden by the chocolate.
Shamefaced, you offer your guests a drink of the hard stuff and then with an apologetic smile, direct their attention to the Swedish meatballs with that 'to die for' sauce everyone at the bridge club raves about.
We know bigger is not always better but benhads have been trained to suppress that notion. Bigger must be better. Why else would we have to pay more for it? Sure, you may not use it all and part of it may end up in the garbage, but, it's a comfort in these hard times knowing you can still afford the biggest and the best. Right?
Here are a couple of facts for you.
Many of us would do well to question the choices we make. Does the designer label on a leather jacket keep us any warmer? If locally grown strawberries are sweeter and tastier and half the cost, why do we still feel compelled to buy the large, tasteless ones? (Because that's an effect of the benhad syndrome). Why do we find powder and paint more attractive than natural beauty? (Because the cosmetics industry has trained us to think that way.
Back in the day when cigarettes were advertised on TV, did you ever see an ugly woman plugging Virginia Slims? The advertising gurus wanted you to equate smoking a certain brand with beauty (and this does work, just on a subconscious level).
In our heads, we hear our own voice, thinking our own thoughts, making our own decisions. We exercise free will, or so we think. In the ploy of the big boys, Monsanto and Google not exempt, we are trained to believe we think our own thoughts when making purchases, when in fact, a good portion of our thoughts are shaped by the designing minds of those hellbent on separating us from our money.
I like my little watermelon. I didn't pay $8.00 for it. It wasn't shipped thousands of miles from across the country or from south of the border. I won't have to throw half of it away because I bought the biggest I could find at the market. I grew this melon. It has a sweet delicious flavor. It satisfies my desire for a watermelon. What more could I want? Let the benhads have what they have been trained to think they want. I will eat and enjoy my little melon with no help from any corporate conglomerate wanting to bend my mind in order to line its pockets.
Advertising may seem entertaining, we may come in from the kitchen to see the latest commercial, but it's job is to sell products, and it does this very well. From the day early man decided to sell his carved wooden tool to another man, advertising has been a part of our lives.
While teaching advertising, I've come to be quite a skeptic. Aware of the various methods of advertising, I tend to focus most on the Parable of Created Needs.