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Advertising Review: Tell People Not to Buy?

Today people’s buying sensibilities and brand awareness are so developed that you might be successful using reverse psychology and telling them not to buy.

We live in a capitalistic, consumer-fueled society.  We are fed advertisements, and expected to gorge ourselves on materialism.  Technology develops and brands sell us on things we didn’t realize we couldn’t live without.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush even encouraged us to shop as an act of patriotism – to get the wheels of commerce turning normally again.

But in recent years, advertisers have began to focus strongly on the humanistic buyer.   This type of consumer is more intrinsically motivated.  They want to know that what they’re doing is good for their life and good for others in general.  They understand they need consumer products, but are impacted by the human connection and messages about the greater good.

Depending on what your ecommerce website sells, humanistic buyers may make a prime target audience.

What type of advertising works with humanistic buyers?  Here is a review of two advertisements that use this approach at it’s most extreme:  by asking people not to spend money.

Patagonia:  Don’t Buy this Coat

Patagonia states that:  clear is the new clever.

They went on a campaign to reveal the negative impact their manufacturing and distribution process has on the environment:

This is an ostensibly honest message – and also one that reveals their understanding of their own target audience.  They acknowledge their carbon footprint, and communicate they’re doing the best they can.  They even ran this ad encouraging people not to buy a new coat:

patagonia advertisement

They know their customers don’t expect them to be perfect, and don’t try to insult their intelligence by pretending otherwise.

Nevertheless, this is still an advertising campaign.  It draws attention (got them on the Bloomberg Report) and creates a strong appeal for humanistic buyers.

In the real world, people in cold places need coats.  Intrinsically motivated buyers are more enticed to buy this brand precisely because they were told not to – for a reason they respect and care about.

Clear and clever.

McDonald’s Pay With Lovin’

In 2015, McDonald’s is a brand that needs work.  Certainly few would associated it with intrinsic motivation; their food has a rep for not being healthy for the body or the environment.

McDonald’s is also emblematic of the “greedy” corporate American structure – to the point of being a parody of it.

What can be done?  Tell people not to buy:

Replace profit with love.  This is about as far into the humanistic buyer modality as you can delve.

Perhaps too much.  The advertising motivation is pretty clear hear, but is says a lot about how even the largest brands are approaching today’s consumers.

As Patagonia says, people are so much more aware of straight advertising today that it’s hard to create any emotional resonance with it.  You have to target your buyer then appeal to the person they see themselves as – in the world the way it ought to be.

Clear is the new clever.

And the need for profit isn’t going anywhere.


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