“Hi, I’m Nick and I’m a shopaholic”.
OK that might be a little overly dramatic. I was never really a shopaholic. But like most of our society, I had bought into the fact that buying stuff = good! When you click that BUY-NOW button on Ebay, it instantly release a shot of dopamine in your brain. And you do NEED new stuff (and gadgets), right?…
That’s right, the instant gratification “drug”. Also known as the “feel-good hormone”.
Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters in the brain. It is most commonly recognized for its role in reward, motivation, and pleasure, but also plays a crucial part in modulating focus, motivation, cognitive flexibility, and emotional resilience. In addition to these creative-productive capacities and states, dopamine is one of the main regulators of motor control and coordination of body movements – neurohacker.com
So now we know, why we (humans) love to buy stuff. But our shopping-impulses are also highly influenced by external sources, primarily being advertisements/commercials, but they are also controlled by our inherent need to “fit in”.
The “Advertisement and marketing” industry is a trillion dollar industry. A trillion dollars! Imagine if governments across the world decided over night to ban all form of public advertising. What would happen?!
In September 2006, São Paulo’s mayor, Gilberto Kassab, passed the so-called “Clean City Law,” outlawing the use of all outdoor advertisements, including on billboards, transit, and in front of stores. From January 2007 it thus became illegal to advertise in the public space.
São Paulo is the biggest city in Brazil, with more than 12 million inhabitants (only 6 million people live in Denmark – in total!). I remember when I first read about this drastic step that the city had taken, towards the “visual pollution”. Obviously, there was a lot of companies who opposed this law – but it was passed, non the less.
Since then, other cities have followed, albeit not in the same extreme manor as São Paulo.
Whether we like it or not, advertisements and commercials are an embedded part of our daily lives. We hardly even notice it anymore – but our subconsciousness remembers every little subtle advert that our eyes ever came across. I’m a sucker for jingles – not as in I like them, but somehow they just stick in my head! Advertisements can f*ck with your brain on so many levels 😛
So why not ban them altogether? Imagine if you could put an adblocker in your glasses/sunglasses, which could filter out any sort of advertisement that you might encounter during your daily life. Wouldn’t that be something!? (There’s an idea for you, Elon Musk! Forget those silly self-driving cars! We want ad-free lives! 😛 ). There’s still the matter of filtering out the sound adverts – unless you have hearing aids or constantly wear earbuds, I don’t have a good solution for that 😛
I came to realize a while back that a lot of my (buying) habits was in fact controlled by advertisement. Whether they were direct or indirect, I could usually always trace my purchases back to some kind of “gentle nudge” from our advert-covered society.
So I’ve now begun to put my purchases into two categories: The functional and the non-functional purchases.
For example, a while back we decided that we wanted to purchase a new couch. Our couch fulfill the function of a place to relax. Given that we’re now 2½ people that like to relax, our old (and very dated) couch was no longer big enough to accommodate 2½ people comfortably relaxing (read: laying down, presumably with an iPad on your belly).
So, we decided to buy a bigger couch. The “corner” kind, which could comfortably fit 2½ persons laying down in it at the same time. Naturally, we frequented a couple of local furniture shops, and we (the wife) found one that we (she) fancied. Naturally, this was not a cheap couch (my wife has expensive taste, did I mention that?…). Luckily, we’re both frugalists-ish, so we were in agreement that we wouldn’t buy this particular couch at that day.
We would instead create a “search agent” in our favorite 2nd hand App, and wait for a 2nd hand version of this exact couch to pop up.
Patience. Not my strong suit. We then had a few debates (guess who won!?) about the non-functional requirements of our couch. Naturally, it needed to be leather (because…because!) and preferably cognac-colored leather, and in a modern design. Even though, there were cheaper options that could in fact fulfill the functional requirements, we decided that it was OK to splurge a little here. After all, our old couch was 12 years old, and had served us well (it was a cheap-ish IKEA couch). So we continued to wait for good news from our 2nd hand App!
And then, suddenly – there it was. 5 years old, but still in a decent condition, at half the price of a new one. It had a few scratches from a close encounter with the previous owners cat – but we were assured that it was nothing major. So we traveled to the city (it’s always in the city…) to see the merchandise in real life. The light was dim, so the scratches did in fact look minor (it was not on the main surfaces). We (obviously) haggled a bit with the price, and got ourselves a decent deal (we paid about 40% of the new retail price).
I “hired” my little brother to help me carry it out of the apartment. As usual, I had underestimated the task. It took a little longer than I had anticipated, so we spent the better half of an afternoon moving around the 100kg heavy corner couch. At last, it was in place in its new home! It looked good. In the brighter light (of day), it did seem as though it had a little more scratches than what we had remembered, but it was still OK – we made a pretty a good deal…
I must admit, the couch is very comfortable and it does fit 3 relaxing people comfortably. And it looks stunning – from a distance. Up close, it looks like a 5-year old couch that has lived with a (angry) cat…And it annoys the hell out of me! I can’t really care about the scratches, if my own cats had made them – but now someone elses cat made them! I hate that stupid cat…This damn couch better last for at least 10 years, or this was NOT a great deal 😛
So, what did we learn today, kids?
Advertisements f*ck with your brain – always consider their influence on your decisions. Is it YOU buying this item, because you have a functional need for it?
Also: when you purchase 2nd hand stuff, make sure you know exactly what you are buying (actually, this goes for anything that you buy – even investments) 😉