THIS IS HOW YOU’RE BEING TRICKED

12 MARKETING TRICKS THAT COMPANIES USE TO MAKE US BUY MOREBy Karen Davidson – November 9, 2022

Colors, math, semantics. There are so many unexpected tools companies use to sell their products. The truth is that marketers have most definitely figured out how to use our behavior as humans to sell more. The following are some of the sneakiest tricks used to make you spend your hard-earned money – and you can avoid them.

  • FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS USE RED ON THEIR LOGOS BECAUSE THIS COLOR TRIGGERS OUR APPETITE.

Color psychology is the study of hues and how they can influence human behavior. Interestingly, colors have qualities that can trigger specific emotions in people. For example, the color red conveys strong energy, attracts attention, and stimulates the appetite.

  • PRICES SEEM MUCH SMALLER WHEN THEIR FIRST DIGIT IS REDUCED BY 1.

As crazy as it may sound, our brain encodes numbers so quickly that reducing the first digit of a price by 1 is enough to make a product seem much cheaper. That is, $2,99 feels like it’s a lot less than $3. This tactic is so common, in fact, that according to a 1997 study published in the Marketing Bulletin, around 60% of prices in advertising material end in the digit 9, while 30% ends in 5.

  • MOST OF YOUR PURCHASES ARE FROM EYE-LEVEL SHELVES, WHICH IS WHY PREMIUM PRODUCTS ARE PLACED THERE.

Want to save some money next time you go grocery shopping? Look for products on the bottom and top shelves instead of just grabbing items from eye-level shelves. Since most people only buy products located on shelves at eye level, supermarkets place their most expensive items on them.

  • RESTAURANT MENUS DON’T ALWAYS USE DOLLAR SIGNS IN ORDER TO DISASSOCIATE THE AMOUNTS FROM ACTUAL MONEY.

It might sound improbable, but it’s true. Although $18.92 and 18.92 are the exact same amount, our brain sees them differently. Research shows that leaving the dollar sign off the menu disassociates the amount from money. That is, removing it keeps the customer focused on the experience instead of the cost of the food they are about to order, making them more likely to order more expensive items.

  • BIGGER NUMBERS MAKE DISCOUNTS SEEM BIGGER. 20% OFF A $50 PRODUCT SEEMS BETTER THAN $10 OFF EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE THE SAME AMOUNT.

Retailers will use the biggest number possible to label discounts in order to make customers perceive it as a bigger discount. For example, instead of offering a $10 discount on a $50 product, companies will advertise an incredible 20% discount.

  • RETAILERS WANT CUSTOMERS TO TOUCH AND HOLD THEIR PRODUCTS IN-STORE BECAUSE IT INCREASES THE CHANCES OF A SALE.

You might think salespeople don’t want you to take items from their shelves and hold them in your hands, but the truth is items are placed on shelves and tables for this exact reason. Research shows customers are willing to pay a lot more for items you can see physically and hold.

  • CALLING A PRODUCT “CHOCOLATEY” MEANS IT DOESN’T CONTAIN ENOUGH CHOCOLATE TO BE CALLED THAT.

Cheese products, fruit drinks, chocolatey. These items are not just using funny words because they are trying to be different. They are actually not legally allowed to call themselves cheese, fruit juice, and chocolate. In order for a product to be marketed as milk chocolate by the FDA, it must contain at least 10% chocolate liquor, at least 3.39% milkfat, and at least 12% milk solids.

  • AFTER TAKING THE TIME TO SET UP A NEW SERVICE AND USING IT FOR A WHILE, CUSTOMERS WILL MOST LIKELY END UP PAYING FOR IT WHEN THEIR FREE TRIAL EXPIRES.

Ever wondered why companies would allow people to use their products and services for free for a limited period of time? Free trials are a great sales technique because no one wants to waste time setting up a whole new system and learning how to use it only to get rid of it after a few days and do the same thing again with a different service.

  • CLEARANCE SECTIONS ARE MESSY SO CUSTOMERS WILL AVOID THEM AND BUY ITEMS FROM NEW COLLECTIONS INSTEAD.

There is a reason salespeople don’t take the time to organize clearance sections. It turns out they want those areas to look messy. This way, when customers realize how difficult it is to find anything in the clearance section, they will return to the neat (and more expensive) racks of new collections.

  • LIMITED-TIME OFFERS MAKE CUSTOMERS FEEL PRESSURED TO MAKE AN IMPULSE DECISION SO THEY DON’T MISS OUT ON A “GOOD” DEAL.

Only 3 seats left on this flight.” “300 people have this in their cart.” “Offer expires in 48 hours.” You’ve probably encountered some of these while shopping. The reason behind this false sense of urgency is to make customers feel like they have to make a decision fast before they miss out on a great offer.

  • ESSENTIAL PRODUCTS ARE ALWAYS IN THE BACK OF THE SUPERMARKET SO YOU CAN GRAB MORE ITEMS AS YOU WALK PAST ALL THE AISLES.

You might have noticed that supermarkets don’t keep their staple products near the entrance or near each other. The reason for this is simple: the more you walk around the store, you more likely you are to pick up other products before heading to the cash register.

  • CROSSING A PRICE OUT AND PLACING A DISCOUNTED PRICE UNDERNEATH CREATES THE ILLUSION THAT A PRODUCT IS WORTH MORE THAN WHAT IT IS BEING SOLD FOR.

Known as prince anchoring, this marketing strategy establishes a price point that customers can refer to when deciding to buy a product. Crossing out a price and adding a discounted amount on a price tag gives customers the illusion that the product is actually worth the original price on the tag although, in reality, the new price is still very profitable for the store.

  • STORES PUT CANDY NEAR THE CASH REGISTER SO CUSTOMERS WILL MINDLESSLY PICK THEM UP WHILE WAITING IN LINE.

Known as parasite placement, this strategy works on impulse buying and involves placing small value items such as candy and small soda bottles near a store’s cash registers. While waiting for their turn to pay, customers might end up picking up a couple of chocolate bars or packets of gum that they had not intended to buy but that are cheap enough that they don’t give it a second thought.

  • BUY ONE GET ONE FREE’ DEALS COMPEL CUSTOMERS TO BUY PRODUCTS AT FULL PRICE – AND SOMETIMES SPEND MORE THAN THEY INTENDED.

You might think buying one item and getting a second one for free is a great deal, but this is not the same thing as paying 50% of the price for one item. Although you are actually getting two units for the price of one, this is only a good deal if you were already planning on buying both anyway. Besides, the product prices are already set high enough to cover the item that was supposedly free.

  • PRODUCT BUNDLES GET CUSTOMERS TO PAY MORE THAN THEY WOULD HAVE IF THEY ONLY BOUGHT THE ITEMS THEY INITIALLY WANTED.

Sure, product bundles offer customers great deals if they are planning on buying all those items separately anyway. But if you only need a pair of $27 sneakers and end up paying $30 to get a pair of socks as well, you didn’t save $3 on socks, you spent $3 extra on sneakers.

  • COMPANIES THAT OFFER FREE DELIVERIES HIDE THE EXTRA COST IN THEIR PRODUCT PRICES.

Would you rather order a burger from a restaurant that charges $20 for a burger plus $5 for delivery or from a place that charges $25 for a burger but offers free delivery? Free shipping makes online shopping more attractive to customers, so companies add the extra delivery cost to their product prices instead.

  • IF SOMEONE BUYS A $25 GIFT CARD FOR $20 BUT DOESN’T USE IT, THE COMPANY GETS $20 FOR FREE. IF THEY DO USE IT, THEY WILL PROBABLY END UP SPENDING A LITTLE BIT MORE BECAUSE IT WAS BASICALLY FREE MONEY.

You might see a gift card on sale and wonder why a company would want to give you free money, but there is no such thing as free money. If you get a $25 Starbucks gift card for $20, you still gave them $20 even if you never use it to buy a drink. And if you gift the card to a friend, they will probably end up spending more than $25 since they didn’t have to actually spend that amount that was already on the card.

  • SAYING 9 OUT OF 10 SPECIALISTS RECOMMEND A PRODUCT IS JUST STRETCHING THE TRUTH, BUT SAYING 10 OUT OF 10 DO WOULD BE OUTRIGHT LYING.

Humans are social beings, so we like to do things other people are also doing. This is why social proof is such a powerful marketing strategy. If you were wondering how is it possible that 9 out of 10 dentists can recommend different toothpaste brands, marketers use several tricks to reach this number. It is possible that marketers asked hundreds of sample sets of ten until they got the highest percentage, or that each participant recommended several brands including the one paying for the survey.

  • PLACING AN EXPENSIVE ITEM NEXT TO A SIMILAR (BUT CHEAPER) PRODUCT WILL MAKE THE SECOND ONE SEEM LIKE A GREAT DEAL.

To give the illusion that a product is cheaper than it is, some stores will place a more expensive version of that same item next to it. Although sometimes the expensive product is really just a premium item, it is not uncommon for stores to inflate the price of the “costly” item to make the one they actually want to sell seem cheap in comparison.

  • STUDIES SHOW THAT CUSTOMERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO MAKE A PURCHASE IF THEY ARE ASSISTED BY A SNOBBY SALESPERSON.

A 2014 study by the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business found that customers are more likely to make a purchase if they are assisted by a rude salesperson. Although this is only true for luxury retail stores such as Louis Vuitton or Gucci, the reason behind this is that customers feel like they have to prove to the sales assistant that they can afford to buy the item they want – and can fit in.

  • FANCY RESTAURANTS HAVE COMFORTABLE SEATS SO CUSTOMERS WILL WANT TO STAY LONGER. FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS HAVE PLASTIC CHAIRS SO THEY WON’T HANG AROUND.

Even seating options have a reason to be the way they are at a restaurant. Since fast-food restaurants want customers to come in, eat quickly, and leave, they offer plastic chairs that get really uncomfortable after a while. Fancy restaurants, on the other hand, have comfortable chairs to encourage customers to stay longer and keep ordering more courses and drinks.

  • FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS PLAY FAST, UPTEMPO MUSIC TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO EAT FASTER. FANCY RESTAURANTS PLAY SLOW MUSIC TO ENCOURAGE CUSTOMERS TO LINGER.

While fast-food restaurants want to encourage table turnover, fancy restaurants prefer customers to linger for hours. To subliminally get their message across, fast-food restaurants play fast-paced music so that customers will eat faster and leave quicker. Nice restaurants, on the other hand, play slow music to encourage people to stay and keep ordering more food and drinks.

  • SUPERMARKETS GIVE OUT FREE SAMPLES TO WHET YOUR APPETITE AND ENCOURAGE MORE PURCHASES.

Offering free samples is a great strategy for several reasons. Not only does it give customers the opportunity to try a product they would not have tried (and bought) otherwise, but it also makes people hungrier, which, in turn, makes them buy more. Besides, research shows that free samples increase customer loyalty when it comes to brands and stores.

  • YOU ARE NOT GOING CRAZY. YOUR NEW FAVORITE SODA REALLY BECAME MORE EXPENSIVE IN THE PAST MONTH.

A common pricing strategy for new products is known as penetration pricing. This tactic prioritizes gaining popularity instead of profit when a product is first released. Once enough people are interested in it, its price will go up to increase profits.

  • MALLS USUALLY HAVE NO CLOCKS OR WINDOWS SO YOU CAN’T TELL HOW MUCH TIME YOU’VE SPENT THERE.

Although nowadays we all have phones in our pockets and checking the time is extremely easy, we can get so distracted we might not even think about it. Since most malls are designed to make us lose track of time anyway, we might not even realize the day is ending and the sun is setting until we step outside.

  • LOYALTY PROGRAMS MAKE YOU SPEND MORE THAN YOU WOULD OTHERWISE TO GET THE REWARDS.

Whether it’s a punch card or a frequent-flyer program, loyalty programs are a great way for companies to make sure you keep coming back. Without a loyalty program, you might get your morning coffee at a different café every morning, but with a punch card, you will get your daily cappuccino at the same place every time and might even spend more in order to get your reward.

  • RESTAURANTS ANNOUNCE THEIR SPECIALS WITH NO PRICING KNOWING YOU WILL BE TOO EMBARRASSED TO ASK.

Usually, specials are announced at restaurants using pretty detailed language and mouth-watering adjectives to tempt you into ordering them. Although many words are used, numbers tend to be concealed unless you explicitly ask. This is done knowing that most people would be too embarrassed to ask how much a dish will cost in fear of looking cheap in front of their dining companions.

  • REMOVING THE COMMA MAKES THE PRICE OF A PRODUCT LOOK LOWER.

Have you ever noticed that expensive items are usually priced at $1999 instead of $1,999? Research shows that the more characters there are in a price tag, the more expensive a product looks. This is why many companies omit the comma in their four-digit price tags.

  • SHOWING PRICES IN INSTALLMENTS INSTEAD OF A LUMP SUM ANCHORS THE SMALLER NUMBER IN THE CUSTOMER’S MIND.

Although we all know one installment isn’t the full price of a product, our brains get distracted by the small amounts advertised and tend to ignore the larger total price we will have to pay.

  • OFFERING TOYS WITH KID-FRIENDLY MEALS ATTRACTS ENTIRE FAMILIES TO A RESTAURANT.

Having a kid’s menu and offering collectibles is a great way to ensure children will beg their parents for a meal at that specific restaurant. While parents appreciate finding a place where their kids actually want to eat, kids enjoy getting a toy with their meals.

  • STORES THAT CHANGE THEIR LAYOUT EVERY FEW MONTHS WANT CUSTOMERS TO BUY THINGS THEY DON’T NEED WHILE LOOKING FOR THE ITEMS THEY NEED.

While not every single retail or grocery store does this, it is not uncommon for businesses to change their layout every few months. The reason they do this is so customers will have to walk around the store looking for the items they need and grab items they don’t need while they’re there.

  • SOME STORES DON’T HAVE DIFFERENT SECTIONS FOR CLOTHES, SHOES, AND BAGS. THIS MAKES IT EASIER FOR CUSTOMERS TO GRAB AN ENTIRE OUTFIT FROM A RACK AND GO STRAIGHT TO THE CASH REGISTER.

While many retail stores have separate sections for their different types of products, some stores place their dresses, pants, coats, shoes, and handbags all in the same room. The reason behind this strategy is simple: customers can just find an outfit they like and bring all items straight to the cash register to pay without having to think too much.

  • BRANDS SEND PRODUCTS TO INFLUENCERS TO SEEM MORE TRUSTWORTHY TO POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon wherein people copy the actions and behaviors of others to figure out what to do in a specific situation. This is why advertisers use celebrities in ads and influencers on social media. By showing potential customers that their product is endorsed by someone they know, brands seem more trustworthy to them.

  • PEOPLE ARE MORE AFRAID OF LOSING THAN EXCITED TO WIN. THIS IS WHY ADS PROMOTE “SAVING” INSTEAD OF “GAINING”.

Loss aversion is a concept that describes that, psychologically, the pain of losing is twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. This is why insurance companies, for example, will try to make customers think about how much they would have to pay if their house was damaged and how much they would save if they had insurance.

  • PRICES ENDING IN ODD NUMBERS SEEM LOWER, SO RETAILERS TEND TO PRICE THEIR PRODUCTS ACCORDINGLY TO BE SEEN AS GOOD DEALS.

Known as odd-even pricing, this pricing strategy involves the last digit of a price. While prices ending in an odd number, such as $1.99, appear cheaper, prices ending in an even number, such as $1.98, look more expensive. Retailers that want their products to seem like bargains use odd-numbered prices, while brands wanting to seem more upscale use even numbers for their prices.

  • WHEN RESTAURANTS OFFER TWO DISH SIZES, THEY ALREADY EXPECT YOU TO PICK THE SMALLEST.

Have you ever noticed some restaurants will offer items in two sizes but won’t tell you how much smaller the small portion is? This is known as bracketing. While some customers will order the smaller portion thinking they are saving money by ordering the cheapest option, others will order the largest thinking they are getting more for their money. But it doesn’t matter, the small one is what the restaurant wanted to sell anyway – and it is priced accordingly.

  • FOOD COURTS ARE USUALLY ON THE TOP FLOOR OF A MALL SO CUSTOMERS CAN WINDOW SHOP (AND POSSIBLY ACTUALLY SHOP) AS THEY MAKE THEIR WAY UP.

Have you ever noticed that most malls have a food court and gaming zone on their top floor? This is done so customers will have to walk past many stores on their way up and maybe buy something before even reaching their destination.

  • DUTY FREE STORES ARE STRATEGICALLY PLACED TO EXPOSE PASSENGERS TO AS MANY PRODUCTS AS POSSIBLE.

At any airport, Duty Free stores are strategically located in the area with the highest traffic of passengers. Some airports, in fact, will even make passengers walk through a shop to get to their gates. Inside the store, passengers are expected to follow a specific path, too. This ensures they are exposed to as many products as possible.

  • NOSTALGIA SELLS. THIS IS WHY SO MANY ADS FEATURE PUPPIES, FAMILIES, AND CHILDREN.

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research in 2014 found that nostalgia weakens the desire for money and makes people feel willing to pay more for their purchases. This is why so many ads feature families, children, and puppies.

  • A PRODUCT BEING SOLD FOR THE SAME PRICE WITH NEW PACKAGING MIGHT MEAN THE AMOUNT YOU ARE BUYING IS NOW SMALLER.

Known as shrinkflation, this tactic consists of changing every feature of a product but its price. This tricks customers into thinking they are buying the same product they have always bought for the same price as always, when, in reality, they are getting less for their money.

  • USING WORDS RELATED TO SMALL AMOUNTS TRICKS OUR BRAINS INTO THINKING WE ARE GETTING A GOOD DEAL.

It turns out our brain prefers descriptions using words related to small amounts when it comes to buying products. This means we prefer products with descriptions like “low maintenance” to “high performance”, even though both are good qualities.

  • MAKING PRODUCTS SEEM EXPENSIVE TO MANUFACTURE MAKES A HIGHER PRICE APPEAR JUSTIFIABLE.

Whenever you walk into a coffee shop that advertises its coffee as 100% organic, you know you are going to pay a little bit more for your cup of joe. However, the price sounds justifiable since you are also getting a higher-quality product, doesn’t it?

  • SUPERMARKETS PLACE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES NEAR THE ENTRANCE TO CREATE THE ILLUSION OF FRESHNESS. BESIDES, ONCE YOU GRAB A FEW VEGETABLES, YOU WILL FEEL LESS GUILTY BUYING UNHEALTHY SNACKS TOO.

There are a few reasons supermarkets and grocery stores place their fruit and vegetables by the entrance. First, the bright colors are very inviting. Second, they give the illusion of freshness and health. Once people grab a few vegetables, they feel healthy and proud, which puts them in a good mood. And being in a good mood usually means spending more money.

  • SHOPPING CARTS ARE GETTING BIGGER AND BIGGER TO ENCOURAGE US TO BUY MORE.

You are not imagining things, shopping carts have been increasing in size lately. It turns out that the emptier a cart looks, the more we feel the need to fill it with unnecessary items. In fact, a US study found that by increasing their shopping carts by 100%, retailers got customers to spend 20% more without even noticing.

  • BUYING IN BULK ISN’T ALWAYS A GOOD DEAL. SOMETIMES, YOU MIGHT END UP SPENDING MORE MONEY BUYING MORE ITEMS THAN YOU NEEDED.

If you only need one chocolate bar but end up buying three because each individual bar was cheaper this way, you didn’t save any money – you spent extra. This might not be an issue if it’s an item you would end up having to buy anyway, such as cleaning products or specific non-perishable food items, but it is definitely not a good deal if you are just going to eat more than you want so it doesn’t go to waste.

  • SOME STORES MAKE MORE MONEY AROUND BLACK FRIDAY THAN THE REST OF THE YEAR.

You might think that selling products at a lower price means stores do not make as much money when their inventory is on sale. However, it turns out that the last three months of the year are usually the most profitable for most retailers. This is because they might not make as much profit on each individual item sold, but the volume of sales is a lot larger than normal. This is a great opportunity for brands to move excess inventory, get people to try their products, and even improve their reputation.

  • WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD, DESCRIPTIVE DISH NAMES SELL A LOT BETTER THAN NON-DESCRIPTIVE NAMES.

If Grandma’s Favorite Lemon Pie sounds tastier to you than just “lemon pie”, you are not alone. Researchers from Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab found that customers were 27% more likely to buy items with descriptive labels than those without descriptive labels.

  • NUMBERS WITH FEWER SYLLABLES SEEM CHEAPER.

It turns out that even if we don’t say the prices out loud, we still perceive phonetically shorter prices as cheaper. So if two prices have the same written length, for example, $17.82 and $18.16, the phonetically shorter one gets automatically associated with a lower price.

  • IF YOU HAVE TO SPEND A MINIMUM AMOUNT TO GET A DISCOUNT, IT’S NOT REALLY A DISCOUNT.

Spend $125 and get a free gift” might sound like a great deal, but unless you were planning on spending that much anyway, it’s not actually so great. The idea of getting a free gift might sound exciting, but it might actually be cheaper to spend only what you need to spend and buy whatever you would get for free with your own money. After all, if the present was actually that valuable, the store would not be giving it away so easily.

  • INSTEAD OF OFFERING ONLY SMALL AND LARGE FRIES, FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS SELL MEDIUM FRIES TO MAKE THE LARGE ONES SEEM LIKE A BETTER DEAL.

Known as the decoy effect, this tactic is all about perception. While paying $1.89 for large fries might sound a little too much in comparison to $1.39 for small fries, paying $1.89 in comparison to $1.79 for medium-sized fries sounds like a great deal. The same concept is used by movie theaters when selling popcorn.

  • STORES PUT SHOPPING CARTS AT THE ENTRANCE TO INSPIRE YOU TO BUY MORE.

Back in the 1930s, retail stores started putting shopping carts near their entrances to inspire customers to make larger purchases. The idea behind it was simple: customers won’t buy heavy, expensive items if they can’t carry them around the store and to their cars,

  • SIGNING UP WITH YOUR EMAIL TO GET AN EXTRA DISCOUNT MEANS YOU WILL RECEIVE LOTS OF EMAILS WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD YOU TO SPEND MORE.

While this is not necessarily the case if you have a lot of willpower or if you have an email account you use only for online shopping, signing up with your email to get a discount might not be worth it. The reason companies want to trade your email address for a small discount is simple: they will be able to easily reach you with tempting emails and ads about their awesome products to make you buy from them again and again.

  • BREAKING DOWN THE PRICE OF A PRODUCT AND COMPARING IT TO CHEAPER A PRODUCT, SUCH AS A CUP OF COFFEE, MAKE IT LOOK MUCH SMALLER.

Comparing the full price of a product to a small daily equivalence makes the amount seem smaller. For example, mentioning the full price of the product but also breaking it down and comparing it to a cup of coffee, for example, makes it sound a lot more affordable.

  • RETAIL STORES HAVE HOLIDAY SALES BECAUSE THE HAPPIER PEOPLE ARE, THE MORE THEY ARE WILLING TO SPEND.

There is a reason every single holiday is a huge sales event. Holidays are when people are the happiest. They get time off from work, they get to spend time with their families, and they might have even gotten a bonus at work. When people are in a good mood, they are also more willing to spend more money.