Christmas, Marketing, and Why I Almost Went Crazy at the Mall Today
...And it might happen all over again tomorrow.
The day I received my Marketing Degree, my Dad starting referring to me as a "Master Manipulator." I'd love to say it was affectionate, but I'm not sure it was. He would point his finger at me every time adverts came on the TV, unaddressed mail came through the letterbox, or "Sale" signs appeared in the local mall.
While I don't answer to the title "Master Manipulator," I will be upfront in saying that since gaining my qualification, I have played my part in getting the public to part with their cash on one or two occasions... Basically, someone has to do it!
For eleven months of the year, I am a skeptical shopper who doesn't let herself get sucked into the hype. Valentine's day, Easter, Black Friday.... they don't phase me. At Christmas time, though, even I get tempted into spending too much and indulging too often over the entire month of December. This year, though, since I've been traveling the world for the past eight months, I've avoided most of the hype. That was all good until I arrived at my final Christmas destination in Edinburgh, just yesterday. Now, after just one trip to the local mall (and a cheeky peek under our jam-packed Christmas tree), I've caught myself getting sucked in. Here's why:
Marketers like me basically give us, the rest of the general population, permission to spend our money without thinking too long or hard, about why or what we're buying. Not thinking hard is a good way for us to conserve energy, and for the other eleven months of the year lets us live a pretty easy life. We just get on with reacting to life and fitting in with our people and the social norms we adhere to.
During December, however, those Marketers stimulate our wee brains by surrounding us with stimuli designed to overwhelm our ability to think straight. When we wander into our local mall, we're faced with Christmas tinsel, Christmas music, Santa's grotto, free samples, sale signs, and more. All that noise, movement, and colour puts our brains under a little stress, and since we are placed in a stimulating and stressful situation, we stop being able to think in a linear, rational way. Basically, we start freaking out about missing something, needing more, and having *the best Christmas ever*!
On top of being overstimulated, the general population (and definitely me), are not very good at stopping. At any given moment, we will always think we need "...just one more...". Think about your last visit to a buffet, when you heaped your plate full of food you didn't end up getting to, or how many last minute presents you've added to someone else's stocking in the last few days? If we haven't planned exactly what we're gifting, it's easy to just buy one more thing for little Jimmy, Nan, or your cat, "just in case." What about all the extra gifts we end up with "just in case" someone unexpected drops by the house?! I can't be the only one who does this, right?
So... today, all of the above happened to me. With two full days to go until Christmas, I spent today window shopping in one of the busiest malls in Edinburgh. I could feel the panic rising as I wandered the stores, hummed Christmas carols, and admired all the hustle, bustle, and sparkle. I almost started buying but instead, I started writing a very specific and thoughtful list. The longer I spent in the mall, the more I added and the less thoughtful and sensible the list became. Tonight, though, I'm going to refine the list, and tomorrow I'll be making my final trip to the mall to buy only what I have written down. Cross your fingers for me and my potentially doomed shopping trip and have yourself a very merry Christmas time.