If you feel like you’re being duped by marketers, that’s because you probably are.
People who do marketing for a living are no dummies. They have an incredible amount of influence on almost everything we do — and they know it.
They know all the tricks for getting right into our heads and swaying our decisions every day. And that’s especially true when it comes to our food choices. They use buzzwords, design, so-called “word of mouth” marketing, social media, overt advertising…anything they can to bend our beliefs in their direction.
It’s often very subtle. And that’s often when it’s most powerful. It’s also when it’s most dangerous. Because they’re needling us in ways we’re not even aware of, and they’re making us believe things that aren’t necessarily true…And that almost certainly aren’t in our best interests.
It’s not that the marketers are lying, exactly. It’s more that they’re stretching and shaping the truth to fit the needs of the company they work for. It’s probably part of their job description. Which you can almost excuse when they’re selling something like deodorant or pens or the latest digital gadget.
But it’s harder to excuse when it comes to people’s health. There’s simply no way you can put a bow on misleading health marketing and call it a “gift.” Influencing people to purchase products by making them think they’re doing something good for their health — while they’re actually doing the opposite — is just plain wrong.
Yet, we see it all the time with food labeling. Marketers are allowed to say almost anything they want on food labels. That’s why it’s so important to be skeptical of any claims you see on a food package.
Perhaps the only saving grace here is that they’re not allowed to outright lie about the product’s contents. So if you just ignore the front of the package and flip it over to the nutrition label, you’ll get the accurate info you need to make smart decisions.
Another day I’ll write an entire article about the insidious art of food labeling. But today I want to tell you about a study I just came across that shows how effective food marketers are at getting into our heads.
The study found that by simply using the words “no fat” or “no sugar,” marketers can get customers to vastly overestimate the nutritional benefits of a packaged food. The wording on the label makes people believe they’re nourishing their bodies, when in fact they’re eating something that has essentially no nutritional value at all.
I have always said that in most cases, foods that sell themselves as low-sugar, low-fat, or low-salt generally have worse nutritional profiles than those without claims. Low-fat is probably the worst, since the fat is usually replaced with sugar. And as you’re well aware by now, sugar — not fat — is what you really want to avoid.
For instance, the researchers in this study found that people go out of their way to buy low-fat chocolate milk and yogurt as opposed to the full fat varieties. Despite the fact that the low-fat versions are typically higher in sugar.
To think that a low-fat label makes something a healthy choice is simply not true. It’s marketing language, pure and simple.
The good news is, it’s easy to stand up to these underhanded marketing ploys. Just buy foods you know are actually good for you. Real, whole, foods. Not ones with fancy labels and misleading buzz-words. It’s as simple as that.