If you’re like me, you get email. Lots of email. Significant amounts of email that come flooding in on multiple accounts. I get all sorts of messages every day and I am really good at ignoring all but the most important ones. If I spend more than 2 seconds on an email, it must be pretty important. However, there are some emails that I do like to look at even though I may never want to receive them again. These are the “special rewards” messages that come from places with loyalty programs. Specifically, restaurants with loyalty programs. Once upon a time, if there was a frequent diner card or special program offered by a restaurant, chances were I was on it. They are great ways to find out about new menu items, specials, discounts and, don’t forget, the free dessert offers whenever a birthday month rolls around. I get offers on Italian, BBQ, Pizza, Mexican, Burgers, traditional American comfort food, Asian, Thai, ice cream, mega chains and local places. I get information in the form of newsletters and updates about the newest must-eat-here-now! places. I get offers from groupon and livingsocial all about foods that I can get at great discounts. I get special offers from manufacturers who know that I have consumed their products in the past. It seems like a never-ending barrage of messages about things that I should consume if I want to be happy or treated or be part of the “in” crowd. Stumbleupon is always making sure I know about the newest food blog entries or recipe web sites since I checked off “food” “eating” “cooking” and “recipes” when I created my profile there. Every single one of these emails or offers reminds me of the behaviors that led me to the state I’m in today. Each one is a warning.
The marketing of food is huge. Billions of dollars are spent every year to get us to buy and eat foods that are, for the most part, very poor choices for what to put into our bodies. Marketers are very talented when it comes to presenting foods in a way that triggers a desire for a reward. After all, “Why wouldn’t I want to go get that new 1500 calorie meal from Joe’s Super Food Family Fun Time Emporium? It’s $5 off! That’s a great deal. I’m saving money. And, did you see the picture? Oh my God, it looks so amazing and fresh and delicious. Why are we still here and not in the car? Go go go!” See how that works? Create a perceived reward and the brain runs after it.
Now, half the time when I open my email, I’m reminded of how I was living. I see messages telling me about all the wonderful things I could have if I only listened to the marketer’s message. After all, they value me and want to be my personal friend. They wouldn’t make an offer like this to just anybody would they? Yes. They would. They do. All I am is a big, fat reliable source of income to the marketers. These messages remind me of that.
The other day, I was talking to my son about this. He was looking at a picture of a hamburger that was blown up to have an ant’s eye perspective. I was explaining to him how the burger in the picture was probably not even real. He was surprised when I told him that marketers often use plastic components to get the “more real than reality” look. I asked him what this burger would look like if he were to order it and have it brought to him. Even though he doesn’t eat burgers, he understood that what comes from the kitchen looks nothing like what’s on the menu. I ended the conversation by reminding him that the menu isn’t selling a burger, it’s selling the idea of a burger. That’s all they need to do is put a thought in your head and then let it mutate into a desire and an action. After the idea is in your head, their work is done.
My goal now is to keep the marketers out of my head. Lately, I’ve been trying to unsubscribe or filter these messages into the trash. While it is nice to have a reminder of what I did, I don’t think it’s a good idea to expose myself to these messages. It’s the mental equivalent of pushing myself away from the table and saying, “I’m done.” That’s another lesson I’m learning but it will have to wait for another post.