Archive for the ‘Interpretations of Marketing Strategies’ Category


No matter how you look at it, cigarettes and chips just aren’t healthy

August 24, 2009

Tomorrow I leave for Texas but like I said on Friday, I have guest posts all lined up for this week to keep you occupied while I’m gone. Be sure to check out Living Rhetorically in the Real World on Tuesday and Thursday as well, because the fantastic Hanlie has kindly lent me a couple of her posts for re-publishing!

Big Food and Big Tobacco

In David Kessler’s The End of Overeating, he talks about the parallels between the tricks that food manufacturers and tobacco companies use to manipulate people into buying their products. I found it amusing (and by that I mean, I found it alarming) when I read this article about how people are being deceived by the packaging of cigarettes. It says that consumers are confused by terms such as “light”. Sound familiar? This just reminds me so much of the way that many people believe that oil labelled “light” automatically means that it’s healthier than regular oil. This isn’t true. If oil is labelled “light”, it’s usually because it is light coloured. The term has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition.

If there’s some kind of food with an interesting package, or a catchy brand name or attractive description, we’re more likely to buy it. Cigarettes are apparently no different.

When I think about the times when I’ve been tempted to buy certain foods, to be honest it’s usually because the packaging looks like fun. EnviroKidz packages, for example, are so cute (and the cereal is pretty darn tasty too). Because it says “organic”, most people pluck it off the shelf without thinking twice. I know I’m repeating myself here, but this is important: “organic” is not necessarily healthy.

It’s the same thing with packages of cigarettes. The consumer figures that if they buy something with a label suggesting it’s better for you than other brands, then it must be okay to consume. Or at least, this kind of advertising relieves some of the guilt. If we can fool ourselves into thinking that something that is “light”, “organic”, or “has 25% less fat” is also healthier, then we feel better. We’re also likely to buy more of it.

I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a pack of cigarettes and believe that because it’s light blue rather than dark blue, or because it says “smooth” or “light”, or because it has a number “6” rather than a number “10” on the package, that it would be good for them. But a lot of people do that. And anyway, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy a bag of chips or a sugary cereal and believe that because there are cute animals on the packaging, or because it says “organic” or “seven grains”, or because it is approved by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation (which takes into account sodium but not sugar or many other nutrients), that it would be good for them.

And yet. We’re still buying those products. We’re still being tricked. Please read ingredients lists. Even if you don’t, stop and think for a moment before you buy. It’s a pack of smokes or a bag of chips; just how healthy do you really think something like that can be?

It’s not so much the actual buying of these products that I find frustrating. Knock yourselves out; I sometimes eat those things too. It’s when we’re duped by the manufacturers, when we convince ourselves that what we’re eating is good for our bodies, that I think it’s very important to address these issues. Just be aware of what you’re putting into your mouth! This is one of the few times that I’ll say I actually kind of like how there are burger joints which call their meals “Monster Burger” and that kind of thing; there are no false fronts about it, that food clearly isn’t so good for you. And if you’re okay with that, then go to town and enjoy yourself! Do a little research, though, if you’re thinking about eating something which uses vague terms suggestive of “healthy” for the sole reason that it sounds nutritious. You’ll be happy you looked into it.

We’re all capable of making our own decisions of what to eat. Make sure that you’re eating what you really want to eat. Make sure that you know what’s really in your food.


Interpretations of Marketing Strategies: The Evolution of Advertising

April 8, 2009

Sego Diet Drink

From what I gather, Sego was a diet drink that was popular in the 1960’s. I’ve recently come across some of their ads, and being incredibly intrigued by the visual rhetoric of it all, I knew I just had to share some of these ads with all of you:

Seriously? Seriously?! As with most advertisements like this, I don’t know whether to laugh or be morally outraged. In the text next to the image, it says, “Wouldn’t you like to look 10 lbs younger? Try SEGO… for success!” The assumption here is that when you’re thinner, you look younger (an apparently incorrect assumption, as we all learned at The Great Fitness Experiment– Charlotte discovered studies that suggest the thinner we are, the older we look!). And then we’ve also got the notion that women aren’t successful unless they are “beautiful” (again, a shout-out to one of Charlotte’s posts in which we discussed this same issue)- taking into account whatever your definition of “beauty” is.

And this is very clearly directed towards women (specifically the heterosexual middle class). After all, we’ve got to please T/the Man in our life, both corporate figures and the spouses! And clearly they will not be pleased unless we’re as thin as we were on the honeymoon. Assuming we had these teensy little waists at that point.

And don’t forget that swimsuit season is almost upon us, ladies. Is there any better way to scream “YOU’RE INADEQUATE!” than on a nice big advertisement while chucking diet drinks at us?

…and now we get to the point where we’re blaming those spouses that we’re trying so hard for. But I think he might actually be saying “eat some real food already! You can even scrape off this excessive amount of whipped cream if you don’t want to eat that as well. Can’t have you passing out from not getting enough sustenance!”, rather than “mmm, rich chocolaty cake heaped with cream, eat it because I’m evil and trying to sabotage your efforts to get healthy”, like the advertisement suggests.

None of these advertisements are current. I don’t know what the reaction was to them at the time that they were circulating, but I imagine that the first one at least would raise a few eyebrows if it came out today. At the same time, are they really so different from the ads that we see today? Are they any more blatant than the blazing headlines (“Eat this, lose weight!”; “So long cellulite!”) on any popular magazine? We’re not talking about just women’s magazines, either- “Scrawny to Brawny in Just 8 Weeks!” was on the cover of one Men’s Health mag. I can’t comment on what men’s magazines were like in the 1960’s because I don’t know, but maybe that is all that has changed: there’s not just pressure on women to conform to a specific “look” anymore, because now men are being pressured as well to fit a certain image in today’s society.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Have you heard of Sego or seen similar ads? Do you think much has changed over the years with the relationship between advertising and the way our bodies and body image are portrayed?

100 Burpees

It is fitness challenge time again for this chica! Specifically, the 100 Burpees Challenge, which I found out about through Cranky Fitness. The idea of this challenge is to do one burpee on Day One, two burpees on Day Two, and so on until you’ve been doing it for 100 days. Luckily, you can do the burpees throughout the day and they do not have to be completed all in a row. 100 consecutive push ups were difficult enough; I don’t think I could do that for burpees!

So what exactly is a burpee? We used to do them all the time in boot camp. They are killer: from a standing position, jump into the air, squat down on the ground and hop your feet back into a push up position, do a push up, hop back into the squatting position on the ground, and then jump up again. That’s one burpee. Exhausting? Brutal? Yes and yes. They also happen to be one of the best exercises for a total body workout.

I started this challenge on Monday. Here’s to Day Three of the Burpee Challenge! Anyone else feel like joining in? Remember, we ease our way into it with just one extra each time. It’s doable. It’s a challenge. You know you want in 😉


Interpretations of Marketing Strategies: Hidden Information

March 30, 2009

On Friday, Crabby McSlacker at Cranky Fitness looked at the pros and cons of requiring calorie counts on restaurant menus. Because of the recent increase in places all across the States (and Canada, too, now) beginning to mandate nutritional information on restaurant menus, this has been the subject for debate for some time now. And the response at Cranky Fitness is evident of the general consensus: none of us really agree on the matter at all. The discussion in the comments was all across the map. Some were adamant that it’s necessary, some strongly opposed the notion, and others were indifferent. We all seem to have conflicting views on the matter, but something that many people made note of was that the information is often misleading or just plain wrong, anyways.

When I came across an article in the Nation’s Restaurant News which highlights that many restaurants boast inaccurate calorie information, I was reminded once again that we really need to take all information we get with a grain of salt. I love the idea of including the nutritional information at restaurants, myself, but as indicated in the article we cannot assume that the information corresponds exactly to what we’re getting on our plates. We should keep in mind that the same also goes for anything we eat in the grocery store; be it frozen meals or produce, it’s likely that somewhere along the way the count isn’t quite so accurate as suggested. I’m going to be skeptical about a package that claims the contents are 236 calories exactly on the nose. Round it up at least to 250 if you’re a calorie counter- it’s unlikely that the manufacturers have really nailed it down to such a precise detail. More often that not there could be 100+ calories that the label neglects to tell you about.

In this week’s issue of The Uniter there’s a feature piece by yours truly about the misleading claims on food products, as well: Who says health food is really healthy? I think we should definitely be demanding having as much information as possible right under our noses- and that includes nutritional stats on menus- because awareness is key to living healthy. But at the same time, we have to accept that the information we’re given should be considered ballpark material. A combination of awareness and healthy skepticism contributes to a better perspective and healthier lifestyle.

And this brings me to a website I have recently discovered, Charity Navigator. It is a fantastic way to look up charities and organizations of any kind to learn more about them and how you can get involved with them. Each charity is rated:

“Specifically, Charity Navigator’s rating system examines two broad areas of a charity’s financial health — how responsibly it functions day to day as well as how well positioned it is to sustain its programs over time.”

And that’s what really grabbed my interest, the information it provides for each charity: specifically, the breakdown of expenses.

The foundations are all rated* and provide a mission statement. I was fascinated to learn that only 54% of incoming money is for program expenses within the American Dietetic Association- administrative expenses are an astonishing 27%. Compare that to the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation, which puts a very respectable 90% towards program expenses, and it makes you start to think carefully about how much progress is being made within various organizations (not that I have anything at all against the American Dietetic Association. I think that their work is wonderful. But everything is worth a second examination).

Granted, there is likely to be much more beneath the surface going on than we can tell by just taking a quick peek at a graph- just like there’s going to be a lot more going on than we can tell by just taking a glance at the calorie counts on a menu- but it still provides a general starter point for us to heighten our awareness. What both Charity Navigator and the restaurant menu nutrition information really do is provide a springboard for us and a starting point from which we can realize that there is more to think about than we might have originally considered. These things allow us to dig a little deeper and find out more information if we so desire. The information is out there. The seed is being planted, and it’s up to us to figure out what we want to do with it and where we want to go from there.

*In case you’re wondering, Charity Navigator doesn’t evaluate itself, on the basis of it being a private foundation rather than a public one. I found that rather interesting. Regardless, it’s a great website and a very useful tool if you’re looking into different charities and organizations.

Don’t forget to answer this month’s poll about food vices!


Interpretations of Marketing Strategies: Botox for Dogs

February 11, 2009

This is a billboard that I walk past every day on my way to work:


Cute, right?

I find this ad really difficult to wrap my head around, besides the fact that it’s a very intriguing form of marketing which captured my attention immediately. The most obvious question to ask is why is there a dog in this ad when the message is directed at people? (No doubt “botox for pets” will soon be all the rage, but as far as I know we thankfully haven’t reached that point just yet).

Using the image of an animal rather than a person could actually take away from the usual negative feelings that ensue when we see pictures of models and are told that we ought to look like them. With an animal, that pressure is eliminated. It’s not too often you see an ad for botox that depicts a furry creature rather than a woman, so right away that grabs attention. Because of that, this ad could potentially have less of an impact on self esteem than some other ad featuring a fresh-faced airbrushed supermodel. Animals are less intimidating.

We cannot deny that the dog in this ad is really cute. With the wrinkles. That just begs the question of why we’re trying to get a smooth complexion in the first place. Who wouldn’t want to be that cute? If anything I’m more turned off of the idea of botox than I was before. Aren’t dogs and babies all the more cute and appealing because they’re so wrinkly? You wouldn’t want to take away their wrinkles, so why are we supposed to get rid of ours as we age?

And that leads to the next observation that this particular dog looks like a puppy. If you’re young and thinking about botox, then I think you need to reduce some of the stress in your life or lighten up a little. On the other hand, the ad might be implying that young people need it too, like this botox ad which states: “Temporarily smooth moderate to severe frown lines for people 18 to 65 years of age”. Me being at the ripe old age of 20, I guess I’m well within the age range to qualify for some nice toxin injections!

Or maybe I’m interpreting this ad all wrong, and it’s demonstrating that we aren’t dogs, so we can’t get away with the wrinkles=cuteness association, and therefore we do need botox. Looks to me like the pets are getting the better deal here, either way.

Regardless, I can’t help but smile at the ridiculousness of this ad. What do you make of it?