« Previous  
 Next »

Nadworny: Checkbox Syndrome

05/21/12 7:55AM By Rich Nadworny
 MP3   Download MP3 

(Host) There are lots of things in life that we want, only some of which we actually need. Commentator Rich Nadworny is an expert on new media and digital marketing who thinks that the more we know about what's influencing our desires and decisions, the better off we'll all be.

(Nadworny) The marketing term Checkbox Syndrome refers to how people can be persuaded to buy a lot of what they don't need by that shiny ‘extra feature' list that comes with new phones, computers and even refrigerators. I mean, will the average conumer really notice a difference between a 20-megapixel camera and a 10-megapixel camera? I'm pretty sure the pictures aren't twice as good

Of course, online retailers are also counting on checkbox syndrome when they make it very simple to check off items in addition to our initial purchase. They list accessories and even matching items. Or, they apply peer pressure by showing us what others, sometimes even our Facebook friends, have purchased as well.

To be fair, online retailers didn't invent checkbox syndrome, even though it's so much more apparent there. Grocery stores and consumer packaged goods companies have perfected the concept with those special displays we see at the end of each grocery aisle. Companies actually pay lots of money for that placement because we shoppers love grabbing stuff from those spots.

In fact, our society is becoming increasingly dominated by marketing. To some, this is simply free market capitalism. But a more disturbing trend is occurring in Washington, where huge multinational advertising companies are snapping up top lobbying and political strategy firms. And it's hard to believe that anyone might think it would be a good thing for Madison Avenue to own the political process.

But in this context, the Citizens United decision makes perfect sense: He (or she) who buys the most advertising, wins.

All of this puts even more pressure on us to educate ourselves and our children about how all this works. Media literacy should be part of our every day discussion and included in our schools' core curricula. Advertising and marketing are not bad things, although there is an awful lot of bad advertising and marketing out there. And lobbying isn't inherently evil, although it's pretty easy to imagine horns and a tail on a lot of lobbyists these days.

If we citizens don't understand how marketing works, we're poorly prepared to defend ourselves against today's onslaught of money, messaging and media - and in danger of becoming like the society Nick Hornby once described to Kurt Andersen - one in which we have to keep buying more stuff or the whole structure falls apart. Kind of like what happened after 2008.

As a marketer, I think the best service a company can provide is to help people by solving their problems - or giving them the tools to do so.

As a consumer, I face a constant tug of war between what I really need, and what I desire. I'm not sure that the iPad 3 will solve any of my problems, but I want one anyway.

Still, I have to believe that the more we know about the pressures and influences we face, the better our decisions will be. And hopefully, that will lead to more success for the more socially responsible companies - and maybe even to more honest politicians.
comments powered by Disqus
Supported By
Become an Underwriter | Find an Underwiter