4 Ways You've Been Tricked Into Spending More

Marketing. We're spammed with it all day. From the notifications we get on our phones, to the ads we see on social media, to the logos we see and advertisements we hear on our daily commutes. There's no way around it.

We're not saying all marketing is bad. Some marketing is good. Some campaigns are innovative and world-changing. But others use techniques that are deceitful and designed to make you spend more and more money. Here are a few of the tricks consumer goods companies use to make an extra buck.

1. "Additional" Features

Let's be honest. There's only a certain amount of real estate on a product label. It's better to pick one feature and lean into it hard than write 60 different uses in small font.

Just take a quick stroll down the cleaning aisle. One product sanitises, another is antibacterial, another says "sport" like that means something, one tackles dirt, grease and grime. Guess what, they all clean! Turn the product over, and for the most part the ingredients are formulation are very similar, save for a few ingredients toward the end of the list. 

Consumer Goods companies are incentivised to create nearly identical products and pitch them to retailers as having an "additional" benefit so they can take up more shelf space and increase their brand awareness. They can also inflate prices for features and benefits that are considered "trendy". It's guaranteed that antibacterial soaps are selling more than run-of-the-mill bar soaps. But the reality is ,when used properly, a bar soap is completely effective in cleaning for your everyday needs. 

2. Anchoring Bias

Anchoring bias is a cognitive bias that makes us put disproportional importance on the first piece of information we get. In a supermarket aisle, we're talking about prices. Products at eye level are often the most expensive and profitable products in the aisle, and once your eyes glaze over these, you get a sense of the "right" price for something. 

How many times have you opted for the second cheapest item on a shelf because the cheapest item was too far off from the "normal" price of something? Why didn't you just grab the cheapest? That's the effect of anchoring bias. Sometimes we may feel a product surely must be inferior if it costs so much less. And we trick ourselves into spending more, when it's often unnecessary.

3. Bright Colours

Colour catches the eye. So that's where your eyes go first. Sprinkle in a bit of the anchoring bias, and a bit of marketing and design razzle-dazzle, and you can be convinced a blue bottle with a yellow cap is superior to the same detergent in a white bottle. 

What you're paying for is the additional manufacturing for the bottle, the branding, and the premium placement on the shelf. Of course, it's possible these products are superior, but it's also worth checking if the marginal increase in performance is proportional to the increase in price. Be sure to look at the cost per unit / per 100 ml metric under the pricing label before grabbing the first thing you see.

4. "Specialised" Products

Another stroll down the cleaning aisle and you'll see floor cleaner, glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, hard surface cleaner and many, many more product categories. You'll see the same formulation in a different delivery mechanism, as a spray gun bottle, spin top bottle, tube, etc. A quick look through the aisle and you can be convinced you must be a slob because you've never knew you needed an anti-dust mite detergent. But that psychological feeling over overwhelm and information overload is highly advantageous to companies.

Studies show that the longer you spend in the store, the stupider you get. After 40 minutes of being in a store, nearly all purchasing decisions made are for emotional reasons. That's why it's always a good idea to go into the store with a list and a plan so you can dip in and out before the brain's cognitive biases kick in.


What other cognitive biases influence your shopping behaviour? Comment below!