Book Review: Wake Up by Jenny McCutcheon
Wake Up by Jenny McCutcheon (non-affiliate link) lays out the intricacies of advertising and marketing in a clear and unmistakable way. It will help any reader snap out of the consumerist dream state and understand just what is going on, backed up by some startling data. It begins by comparing consumerism to an out of control merry-go-round, which is exactly what out of control shopping feels like. But the author points out that there’s a STOP button we can push to get ourselves off this mad ride; one such button is Wake Up itself.
McCutcheon, who holds a BA in eMarketing and is also the author of the blog Ex-Consumer, provides the reader with the “tools and information needed in order to wake up and break free” of all the ways that marketers devise to get us to buy their products.
Many of us think marketing and advertising are the same or interchangeable, but advertising is actually one element of the larger category of marketing. McCutcheon shows how marketing works, using the example of the Swiffer mop from conception to advertising, to show that “by the time a message gets to us it has already been through the marketing funnel.” That funnel includes extensive market research, to determine just what product features and consumer needs to combine to make an irresistable product.
In my own book, The Minimalist Woman’s Guide to Having it All, I go into the psychological vulnerabilities that are exploited by advertising, creating the sense that we are not good enough just as we are. McCutcheon takes this from philosophy to the hard facts, showing how consumer addicts are created. We might think we are immune to advertising ploys, but it is so pervasive and so effective, that “…if you’ve ever replaced an item even though it still worked or could be fixed, then you’ve likely been influenced by advertising messages that were successful in making you desire a product.”
Advertising is taken a step further by the media. A company knows how to advertise its product, but media know how to sell the market to the marketers. There’s a difference between an ad and ad space, which McCutcheon covers in depth. A variation on ad space in magazines and such is product placement, which is when you spot a can of Coke in a situation comedy. Is it there because the company bought the placement, or was it placed because the company was so successful in making the product an icon of a certain sensibility or status?
As McCutcheon takes us further into the world of marketing, we see it gets worse, much worse. She prepares us by giving us the same opportunity to understand our own motivations for the way we spend our time and money that the marketers have. She provides a series of Action Steps to help us help ourselves, to not only avoid media, but to be wise to more subtle tricks, such as changes in the amount of product in a package, and marketing that is aimed at our kids, from those big bright playgrounds at Mickey D’s to the stuff that the “cool kids” are wearing and using, known as peer-to-peer marketing.
I learned a lot about peer-to-peer and subliminal marketing from this book, things I’d never heard of when my son was in school, and things that make me wonder if I’d ever seen them in action. She also goes into strategies called Stealth Marketing, where actors with a product are placed in public spaces and using the product in a conspicuous way.
Neuromarketing is the future, where every manner of brain wave and neural responses are observed to create a marketing strategy so finely tuned that it plays to our individual wiring and personal history. A simpler form of this is interest-based advertising. I’ve recently encountered this after ordering glasses from Zenni Optical. Now ads for that company pop up when I use Google and Facebook. It’s not an accident.
Wake Up includes many links to helpful sites and videos to further educate yourself and your family. Buying and reading this book, however, is an excellent first step, and includes a money-back guarantee.