New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Great American Supermarket Games - Packaging & Brand Tax

The Packaging Game

The packaging has a purpose that isn’t all bad.  Many preserve and protect the product, allowing us to make use of things that were produced far away or a while ago.  In this way they assure that an item arrives unspoiled and ‘help’ those of us who use the item to feel good about it.  The downside is that packaging is potently expressive, which ultimately costs us even more monies.

For manufacturers, packaging is the crucial final payoff to a marketing campaign.  How so?  Well it is not uncommon for us to have been ‘prepared’ for shopping and purchasing this product by lush, colorful print advertisements, 30-second television mini-dramas, radio jingles and coupon promotions.  Yet it is the package that makes the ‘final sales pitch’, seals the commitment and gets itself placed in our shopping cart.  Advertising therefore leads us into temptation and in many cases this temptation and its influence to us, is what makes the product possible.

Package colors, materials and other design elements are very deliberate. Much like advertising, packaging appeals to our emotions and directs our attention to specific product features, like health claims or a free toy, while distracting attention from other details, like small serving sizes or questionable ingredients.

But the package is also useful to us, in that it is a tool we can use for simplifying and speeding our decisions on what we buy (IF we read the package and not just look at the picture).  Packaging promises and usually delivers, in a predictable way.  With proper Nutritional Labeling they can give us the vital information we need to purchase nourishing and healthy food items or avoid ingredients that we object or are allergic to.

The Shrinking Package Game
Package downsizing is another marketing ‘game’ to get more money for less product.  Just about every manufacturer today utilizes this particular strategy.
No we do not need glasses, this is really happening!

Ever hear about the “brand tax”? 

This is an ‘unofficial’ sudo-tax based on when a company develops a product that becomes very well-known and very popular, that product's brand becomes a highly valuable commodity.  This causes an increase in price due to the popularity of the band and is known as the ‘brand tax’.

Companies often spend thousands and thousands of dollars on developing brand recognition, investing in symbols, slogans, catchy jingles and high-impact advertising campaigns that will stick in a consumer's mind. Over time, the product becomes more and more familiar to consumers and studies have shown that people are often more comfortable buying products that are familiar to them rather than unfamiliar alternatives – no matter that the price is higher. 

Of course, companies cannot justify a brand tax if their products aren't high-quality. Once this quality and popularity is established the unofficial market price or "brand tax" is added to the wholesale cost.

Many store brands are made by the same companies who sell much more expensive brand-name products. Most supermarkets do not have their own manufacturing plants as it is cheaper for them just to have their products packaged by established manufacturers.

Some budget-conscious consumers buy lower-priced generic products whenever possible, as a matter of principle. Other consumers compare prices and only buy generics sometimes.

Some generic products are nearly identical to their brand-name equivalents. Other generics are even manufactured in the same factories or processing plants as the better-known brands. In other cases however, the difference in quality is considerable.

In the long run, brand popularity depends not only on how effectively a product is marketed, but on quality and consistency as well.

Each consumer has his or her own unique tastes and preferences, and each consumer has his or her own budget to consider when shopping. Accordingly, despite all the advertising in the world, only you can decide whether or not you should pay a higher price for a brand-name product.

 The trick here is to always calculate the unit price or price per ounce and never trust the package size.
The next post will be on the Misleading Labeling Game and the Dissonance Mind Game

Until then Be Prepared - Not Scared ;-}


Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Great American Supermarket Game - Who Wins, Who Loses?

Just about all of us get our food items at a supermarket.  Unbeknown to most of us is that as soon as we enter the store we are starting a game of huge proportions and importance.  This game is out to not only take our hard earned dollars, but also to rob us of our independence, while  driving us nuts in the process.

Over the next series of posts I'll discuss these various games and what we can do to save our minds and our dollars!  Let's start with a little background ...

Not a day goes by that we are not faced with psychological mind games.  We are conditioned to believe that we live such a busy life that we need and are entitled to this or that in order to gain more free time or in order to present ourselves in a ‘successful’ manor or be with the ‘winning’ team.  All this manipulation is used to control our thinking, to conform us into accepting the dictates of the ‘status quo’ and ultimately to get our hard earned dollars.

Every day we are slammed by the ‘games’ of the food industry and the only winners are the corporations ‘sponsoring’ the games.  From the corporatization of our industries and government regulation roulette, to marketing and advertizing ‘mind games ‘– we are the ultimate losers each and every time.

As soon as we put ourselves behind a shopping cart our world changes.  We find ourselves in the position of a ‘player’ on the ‘game board’ of the supermarket.  Our ‘role’ is as an active consumer, our obstacles are all the marketing and advertising ploys used to get our hard earned money. So as we are moving through these ‘game boards’ (the supermarket, the discount store, the warehouse club, the home center, the department store) we have to realize that the game has been ‘fixed’ to put us at a disadvantage and the ultimate goal is to get our money and put the ‘game masters’ (the store and product suppliers) into the Mega Buck stratosphere.

Although fundamentally there is nothing wrong with earning money, the problem is the addiction to the dollar and hence the goal of ‘Mega Profits, Mega Bucks, Mega Quickly at any and all costs’ mentality, that unfortunately, all too often, is at the sacrifice of our health and well being by these ‘game masters’.  

The modern supermarket is no longer a larger version of an old fashioned or traditional marketplace.  Rather it is a programmed environment with innocuous music, punctuated by enthusiastically intoned commercials and signs, with subliminal architecture, to packaging labels and ‘sale’ flyers.   The life and death matter of eating, which was expressed in traditional markets by the sale of vegetables with stems and roots and hanging animal carcasses, is purged from the supermarket.  Food is now processed somewhere else or at least trimmed out of sight.  The hard labor of the earth and the ‘gory’ process of ‘dressing’ our foods is foreign to most of us.  In the past a stroll through a traditional market offered an array of sensuous aromas, yet today if you are conscious of smelling something in a supermarket, there is a problem. 

Our only defense against all this marketing is to admit these games exist, identify them and then consciously attempt to avoid them.  One of the best places to start this new awareness is in the supermarket.

It’s A Hard Battle Ahead
Research shows that on average we spend about 30 minutes on a trip to the supermarket.  As we traverse this ‘artificial environment’ we are bombarded with 30,000+ different products that vie to win our attention and ultimately make us believe in the ‘promise’ of the product enough to purchase it.

From the time the door opens (automatically) for us, we enter an arena where our emotions and appetites are immediately put in play.  Walking down an aisle becomes an exercise in self-definition.   Every decision we make, on each item we put in our carts, we are systematically being asked:  Are you a good parent, a good provider?  Do you have time to do all you think you should and would you be interested in a shortcut?  Are you worried about your health and that of those you love?  Do you care about the environment?  Do you appreciate the finer things in life?  Is your life what you would like it to be?  Are you enjoying what you've accomplished?  Wouldn't you really like something chocolate?  These are just a few of the subliminal questions we are confronted with as we stroll through a supermarket.

Once we begin pushing the shopping cart, it matters little whether we are in a supermarket, a discount store or a warehouse club. We are now in a world of products in packages. Expressive packages that are intended to engage our emotions; ingenious packages that make us ‘believe’ a product useful; informative packages that ‘help us understand’ what we want and what we're getting. 

Historically, packages are what made self-service retailing possible and in turn, such stores increased the number and variety of items they carried and that people buy.  Today most of us don’t remember grocery shopping before self-service stores and ‘clean and tidy’ packaging.  We are so far removed from what goes into providing us with food that all of these ‘preparation steps’ are virtually unimaginable and considered gross or disgusting.

It is here that all the 'games' start. 
So the next post will be on The Packaging & Shrinking Package Games.

Until then Keep On Preppin'