Content like advertising puts voices in your head. Here’s how to be the boss of them.
Marketing and advertising are fighting for a piece of your mind. In fact, there is a term used in the industry, “mindshare.” A way to say that companies buy real estate in your thoughts.
Ok, so there are voices inside your head.
Not in the sense where you need to consult the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). But if you are like most people, there are voices whispering to you,
“Am I pretty enough?”
“Is my status in life impressive?”
“Would she like me more if I had that cool car?”
Advertisers and content marketers embed ideas that influence belief.
After filtering out those voices from the voices of mom and dad, telling you to get good grades and wear clean underwear, the remaining voices are likely from the countless vehicles for content that you’ve absorbed over your lifetime. That car ad on TV. The woman with the flawless skin in the magazine and on TV.
While the marketing messages in that content may not immediately cause us to drop what we are doing and run out to buy that specific product, the effects are cumulative and lingering.
The effects of marketing messages: think of it as being exposed to radiation.
It’s the level of exposure, time of exposure, level of intensity and our mental shielding that determines how much the messages seep through and permeate our thinking. Once through, ideas take up real estate in our head as nagging thoughts. In the advertising and digital marketing business, we call that type of exposure frequency. In the business, it’s believed that the more you are exposed to a message, the more likely it will drive consumer awareness and promote action. The rule of thumb is four or more exposures.
Sub-communication: The service elevator for messages to our brain.
While exposures to messages may sometimes spur you to run out and go by the new iPhone, it’s usually not the specific product concept that gets into your head. Instead, it’s the broader underlying value or belief that can drive the idea of buying the product. The product or service itself presented is overt. For example: “Get the new Zoomster Plus today!”
The value narrative or bigger framing story in the message is more covertly delivered by content creators and received by us unconsciously. And that’s why it’s called sub-communication.
For instance, you may not be thrilled at the new car you just saw in the 30-second ad, but the idea the ad sub-communicated is that a car will make you popular or sexy. That notion is what gets through and stays lodged in your psyche. You may not want to go to the specific vacation location where you see your friends on Facebook or Instagram living it up, but the idea that living at that level is achieving happiness may get through.
Bit by bit, content messaging themes and values get through and find a home in our head. And though they came from different sources, those that seek to sell are usually sub communicating some form of the same message:
what you have and who you are is not good enough. Your happiness comes from the outside.
You might be surprised at the level of exposure you have to all these messages. It’s estimated to be over 5000 ads alone…daily. Add social cues and social proof from sources like social media and the deluge of messages on your brain feels like barbarians at the gate.
Do the voices in your head sing soprano?
The concern about such messages that get through and create the voices in your head is that they work to dominate your internal dialogue and argue for you to be externally focused on seeking satisfaction. Voices that can be almost siren-like (…you deserve….treat yourself…savor the…find your joy…”).
If we blindly follow the voices, they often point us in the wrong direction for happiness. As a result, we may find ourselves trying to chase happiness, product to product. Getting to each destination or purchase only to find true happiness looks better up ahead. Always just one iPhone, one vacation home away. And for many, it takes years or even a lifetime to find out they’ve been misled by their own inner dialogue. To look at what we bought and collected. Then, instead of feeling happy and that we have arrived at happiness, we collectively “meh” as we’re not sure if we are in the right place.
So what do you do to control the voices in your head?
- Understand and be confident that happiness comes from within.
You can wear cool things, cool brands. But that’s not the same as being cool. Learn to be cool (Not a lesson for this blog post). When it’s an internal lesson, it usually points you toward things you really want. Don’t wear or buy what you’ve been told is cool. Otherwise your just buying someone’s else definition of cool. Which, is not cool. The Ed Hardy shirt phase in history comes to mind.
- You are not what you buy.
As consumers, we do tend to buy items to reflect or communicate our status or who we are or how we want to be perceived. That’s because society, for the most part, believes it as an aligning statement. That still doesn’t make it fact. Walmart Billionaire Sam Walton famously drove a pickup truck to work. The fact that his car wasn’t a million-dollar Bugatti didn’t mean he wasn’t one of the world’s richest people. When the voices in your head ask you to play dress up or buy things to fit in or play a part. Ask yourself if you really want to play along. Is that who you really are? Or as Brad Pitt said in the movie Fight Club, “you are not your Khakis.”
- Build self-confidence
Those voices in your head only have sway is because you let them crowd out and overpower the person you are comfortable being. You can push back by building and exercising self-confidence and self-esteem. Instead of letting all those voices dominate the meeting in your head to the point you are afraid to speak up and assert your true beliefs, be the boss at the meeting. Those voices should be pitching great ideas to you, not bossing you to take dictation or simply accept their view. And like a true boss, have the confidence to make them win you over, or say “Not satisfied. Go back and make a better argument.”