September 23, 2016
No matter where we go, the marketing of food and drink is constantly in our lives. Whether walking down the billboard lined streets in New York City, or simply deciding on which orange juice to buy based on “heart healthy” claims made by a certain brand, marketing impacts our decisions every day, consciously or subconsciously. It can be tough to sift through the claims and advertisements made by food and drink corporations every day, and most consumers most likely are not informed about what is the truth on things they’re constantly ingesting or using. For example, it has most likely never crossed a consumers mind when watching a commercial who the intended audience may be, or trying to determine what the difference between “all natural” and “organic” food labels is. Marketing of food and drink includes confusing or misleading labeling, and advertisements aimed at specific audiences, which can lead to a less healthy lifestyle for all consumers who do not have the information necessary to consider healthier alternatives than those heavily advertised.
Labels can be misleading from the menus at your favorite restaurant, to labels on poultry. At many fast food or chain restaurants, a new menu labeling law has been implemented to “inform” customers of what the caloric intake of their favorite plates are (Kolias). However, according to Precisionnutrition.com, no one is distinguishing the calories between things like low calorie dessert and high calorie, but healthy, foods, such as avocado. Rigid calorie counters may reduce the “quantity” of calories, but the “quality of what they ate was pretty bad” (Kolias). Furthermore, the FDA allows a 20% “underestimation” of the amount of calories in food, so the labels on the menu may not even be true (Kolias). Labels directly on food and beverage items aren’t much better. Many shoppers look for “free range” poultry or eggs from said chickens, picturing a happy little chicken strolling around in a sunny field. However, according to the Center for Food Safety website, the USDA allows for any chicken raised with access to the outdoors to be labeled “free range.” The chickens you believe are strolling carelessly in a field still may never live to see daylight. Most of these claims made by corporations are simply ploys to have consumers believe their food is healthier or sourced more responsibly than it truly is, and because of this, consumers are living a less healthy lifestyle, while purchasing goods made by corporations with these false claims, keeping them in business.
In the age of technology, with the entire Internet at our fingertips on a 5-inch screen, consumers have become even more susceptible to targeted marketing. Every time a consumer logs onto Facebook and sees an ad for the dress they were looking at just the day before, that is intentional. Harvard Business Review states that companies “can deliver ads targeted specifically to individuals based on their behavior online”. Seeing these ads tailored to their internet browsing preferences causes consumers to “make them feel like they already have traits implied by the ads,” (Reczek), which can be detrimental depending on what is being marketed. With 1/3 of teenagers being considered overweight or obese, targeted ads from junk food and beverage companies prove to be very impressionable on young brains. A discussion continues to take place at the American University, trying to understand if teens have the “cognitive maturity to decipher marketing messages aimed at them,” (Frank). Could targeted marketing be playing a part in the obesity epidemic in the youth?
Many people feel that the government should step in and place heavy restrictions and regulations on food labeling and marketing. In our Capitalist society, it is fair game to target towards whomever for the good of business. The most effective argument towards this issue is to educate oneself: learn which companies are making false claims and learn healthier alternatives to the unhealthier food and drink being aimed at consumers. It’s not the government’s job to parent consumers on what they should be eating, or to scold companies for marketing junk at teenagers, it’s up to consumers to learn and act on their own for a healthier future.
“Explaining the Labels: Misleading Labels.” Center for Food Safety, Center for Food Safety, 2016, http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/healthy-home/3274/cfs-healthy-home/tips-for-a-healthy-home/3750/explaining-the-labels-misleading-labels.
Frank, Adrienne. “Teens in the Crosshairs: Is Targeted Marketing Ethical?” Teens in the Crosshairs: Is Targeted Marketing Ethical?, American University, 14 Sept. 2011, http://www.american.edu/americantoday/campus-news/20110914-kogod-now-targeted-marketing.cfm.
Kolias, Helen. “Research Review: Misleading Calorie Counts.” Precision Nutrition, Precision Nutrition, 30 Sept. 2015, http://www.precisionnutrition.com/label-lies.
Reczek, Rebecca Walter et al. “Targeted Ads Don’t Just Make You More Likely to Buy – They Can Change How You Think About Yourself.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Publishing, 4 Apr. 2016, https://hbr.org/2016/04/targeted-ads-dont-just-make-you-more-likely-to-buy-they-can-change-how-you-think-about-yourself.