Shoppers Beware: 6 Holiday Advertising Tricks

Don't Get Caught Up in Sneaky Holiday Sales

Woman Stand Hat with Gifts
Stay on Top of Holiday Tactics this Season

Mad Men is a perfect example (albeit a dramatized one) of just how much thought and effort goes into advertising. With the competition for holiday sales heating up, retailers must revert to some clever tricks to entice shoppers to walk in the door and spend big bucks. So, how exactly do stores lure you in? Here are six holiday advertising tricks you won’t want to fall for!

Sense the Holidays

On the most biological level, people respond to smells and sounds. Have you ever walked through a mall and caught yourself unwittingly following your nose to fresh pastries or fried chicken? Retailers use this same trick with scented candles, pine-smelling garlands and other holiday scents that bring customers in. This tactic is used in tandem with playing non-stop Christmas music that seems to come earlier every year. By repetitively playing the music and the smells of the season, customers are more susceptible to impulse shopping.

Merchandise Placement

Retailers work diligently to create prime conditions for impulse purchases. From strategically laid out end-caps (those areas at the end of aisles) to the $5 and under items scattered around the cash register, every single product is carefully mapped out. Retailers also bank on something called “triangular balance.” Essentially, retailers place the biggest, most expensive items where customers’ eyes are most likely to fall, and keep smaller, cheaper items towards the periphery of their vision. Be sure to search thoroughly for the best deals instead of settling on the first item that catches your eye!

Store Credit Card Discounts

This can be the most enticing tactic of all. Imagine, you’re in line with armloads of discounted products and you are offered a store credit card for an additional 15% off your items. Sounds like a good deal right? However, you need to ask yourself, do you really need another credit card? Unfortunately, high interest rates may cancel out any discounts given by stores. Furthermore, making a habit of opening store cards can hurt your credit score.

Sales That Advertise Limited Time Only

Another sneaky tactic consumers get caught up in is “Limited Time Only” signage. More often than not, retailers utilize this advertising tool when attempting to clear out their inventory. This can be an effective way to sway consumers to buy something because it creates a sense of urgency. If customers think a product may no longer be available, they might be more inclined to grab it before it's gone. This tactic is most pervasive with Black Friday and early Thanksgiving Day sales.

Resisting These Tactics

This holiday season, make it your goal to recognize these subtle tricks at the store and even online. The quicker you notice them, the easier it will be to resist the spending urges that retailers intended. There is no right answer for how to avoid these marketing tactics, but taking just a few simple actions can make a significant difference.

The simplest way to begin making smarter shopping decisions is to only leave home with a thorough and well-researched gift list. Shop for these gifts only and end your day when you’ve purchased what was on your list. Don’t linger in the stores longer than necessary. This habit will significantly cut down on impulse purchases as well as your time spent battling the holiday shopping crowds.

Shop with Cash or Debit

Avoid leaning on credit card debt to fulfill your gift list, which may seem convenient in the hustle and bustle of early December, but can impact your finances come January. Using cash can also help reduce unnecessary purchases, by forcing you to stop shopping when your wallet is empty.

This article was written for BCU by NerdWallet.