5 Psychological Techniques Companies Use to Take Advantage of You

If you ever feel like you're being manipulated by advertising or even by how a physical business is arranged, you're not wrong. Every smart -- and definitely every shady -- business owner knows how to sell their product and make it more appealing to you.


If you want to make more informed choices about how you spend your money, it helps to be aware of some the techniques companies use to get you on their site or in the door -- and keep you there longer. Some even consult with behavioral and social psychologists to work on new or stronger ways to pique your interest.

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Below are five of the more insidious ploys by a variety of businesses to part you with your hard earned cash.


1) Every square inch of a casino is designed to keep you inside and gambling.


If you've ever looked for a clock on the wall, or wondered why there aren't any windows, or blown your own mind calculating the cost of cooling thousands upon thousands of square feet of Vegas real estate, then you have seen​​ casino psychology​​ in action.


You are supposed to feel like you're in a timeless fantasy world devoid of climate or choices. Blinking lights and enticing sounds -- to say nothing of the free drinks -- guide you to each point of interest. If you need a nosh, you don't even have to leave! Restaurants of every kind are right “on campus.” Each casino resort is like a university for people who think theyhave a system.


Oxygen may also be pumped into some casinos to keep players alert, but with all the smoking that’s still allowed on many floors, that can't have too much of an effect.


2) All aspects of a fast food business are geared to make you crave more food.


Think back to the last time you left the drive through and actually went into a fast food restaurant or diner. What was the prevailing color? I can almost guarantee you it wasn't purple or blue.


From the color of the logo, to the decor, to the advertising on television, fast food symbolism is predominantly red, followed closely by shades of yellow and brown. Although the science behind this is​​ controversial, it is an accepted practice that red either stimulates appetite or decision making.​​ 


Color is just the tip of the​​ psychological​​ iceberg. Fast food is advertised during children’s programming, ensuring that stressed parents will have to make a Mickey D’s run at least once during the week...and purchase something for themselves, too. Some of the items are even priced at a loss because corporate fast food marketers know we’ll also buy fries and a soda.


The sugar, salt, and convenience are incredibly appealing to the fast-paced Western world. One wonders if fast food even needs to be advertised anymore for us to want it.


3) Retailers are focused on your eyeline and your ego.


Have you noticed that many shops are set up a bit like a museum? From the headless mannequins to the lights -- and sometimes even to the snooty sales staff -- your shopping experience is designed to catch your​​ eye​​ and make you feel like you’re doing something more aesthetically pleasing that purchasing underwear or perfume.


Physical shop owners calculate where to place items based on how you'll naturally move through a space (counterclockwise) and where your eyeline falls. If you're in a store with more diverse offerings (grocery, department, etc.), many items will also be placed at your child’s eyeline -- persuading you to spend up to 30 percent more per outing.


You may have also noticed cute little lower priced items right at the end of your journey, near the register. Since you’re already prepared to pay for what you already have in your basket, you're primed to pick up “just one more” thing.


4) You don't need to know anything about technology to be convinced your brand is best.


Face it; you don't know how wifi works or what BIOS is or your backside from a dongle, but you are absolutely convinced your Apple or Android or PC product is vastly superior to whatever somebody else on Facebook is waxing poetic about, right? And even if you've never been in that argument, you've witnessed it.


Why do people who don't have Unix beards fight over -- and fork over -- thousands of dollars on tech by brand name alone? Marketing wins again!​​ 


Remember the Mac versus PC ads where a very schlumpy character actor was the personification of the unsexy, non-Apple world? And for some reason, Justin Long was deemed the hip and lithe Mac? How about when Cortana tried to show up Siri?​​ 


Tech companies know you haven't the faintest idea how to choose a good smartphone or computer, so they appeal to your​​ emotions​​ with tribalism and association. One company plays the Stones’ “Start Me Up” while the other runs poetry quotes during their respective Super Bowl ads. They pit themselves against the other in a sort of Coke vs. Pepsi cold war that we gleefully participate in like evangelists.



5) Sex. Period.


Look at the above photo and imagine what the image is advertising. Hold that thought in your head for a moment. You may even be imagining a company slogan or tagline. Now, what did you come up with?


Was it women’s apparel? Perfume? A hamburger, car,​​ bottled water, hair product, nail polish, hotel, airline, gym, plastic surgeon, aesthetician,​​ computer…? Okay, okay, point made. In fact, this is just a freely available stock photo of a stunningly beautiful woman in an incredibly unlikely scenario. Who lies around a beach while the tide comes in wearing full makeup and a lace dress? But this image could be used to sell nearly anything except diapers.


In our cynical world, this isn't even a “sexy” picture. It's certainly no Carl's Jr. dripping-ketchup-on-Kate-Upton ad. But the image is suggestive of feminine abandon. You could use this image to advertise chocolate if you wanted to suggest that your chocolate brand is so screamingly delicious, women would actually collapse on the beach in ecstasy upon eating it.


It's been​​ argued​​ that this method of advertising is more persuasive to men, but it is definitely memorable to everybody, even if we can't quite remember what the product itself was. This is no different on convention floors than it is in retail campaigns, or restaurants with attractive servers.


The take-away is that you should always question why you want something, or aspire to have a product, before purchasing it. You may find that your strings are being pulled, and you have no genuine desire to own or eat something after all.


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