I’m sad to say I fall for this every time. I see an advertisement on television or in a magazine, announcing that, for a limited time, I can obtain a free gift from the very French, very desirable cosmetic house of Chez Lust, or Christian Desire or whatever it may be. The glossy, shiny image shows a tiny (very tiny), impossibly cute little bag, surrounded by cosmetic products which are included in the gift bag. This produces in me, and probably far too many more otherwise intelligent women, a sudden overwhelming yearning to possess and fondle and play with the cute little bag and the goodies it contains.
The logical, now submerged, part of my brain is trying to remind me that, in addition to the 102 handbags I already have, I also have a collection of around fifty tiny (very tiny) impossibly cute little bags. Of course I have these fifty tiny (very tiny) impossibly cute little bags as a direct result of the sort of Pavlov’s-Dog type response to this masterpiece of cosmetic marketing. Everyone loves a gift, don’t they..?
However for myself, and possibly you as well, I shall attempt to deconstruct the process and see if that makes any difference. Firstly, the notion of a “free gift”. Only truly cynical marketers could have come up with that, or is it just plain naive of me to think that gifts are supposed to be free? Still on the “free gift” idea, there is something universally attractive about the idea of someone wanting to give you a gift, even if they are complete strangers. Then we have the phrase “limited time” – an oldie, but a goodie. Applied to almost everything that someone, somewhere wants you to buy. It immediately puts you under pressure not to miss out, because the implication is that you’ll regret it if you do.
Scale is also important in this marketing ploy. Next time you see such an ad (the big department stores usually run them, so you know where to go to find your free gift), notice sizes. You’ll see that the cute, tiny free cosmetic bag they are giving away really is tiny. Miniscule in fact. You can tell this because in the gift bag are samples of cosmetics, usually including lipsticks. Notice the size of the lipstick tube compared to the bag, and you’ll see what I mean. Notice how the lipstick looks quite big? It isn’t at all, it just that the bag is teeny weeny.
Now for the fine print. On television, this usually whizzes by at high speed, thus making it impossible to read, while allowing the advertisers to say that they have complied with the relevant disclosure laws. You’re in better luck if you have a magazine in hand, and your reading glasses, or possibly a high-powered microscope. You’ll be able to observe that the “free gift” is only going to be bestowed upon you if you spend over a certain amount. That’s right, punters. To add insult to customer injury, the amount specified will be just high enough to ensure that you can’t buy the cheapest item they have in order to claim your bag. In fact you’ll end up having to spend considerably more, for things you didn’t need, in order to be given a “free”, tiny plastic bag, made in China, full of equally tiny new products you also don’t need, just so the manufacturers can ensure that you try them and then buy them in the regular, expensive, size.
Of course, I hear you saying “but I do use the products; the bags and all those little bottles are so handy when travelling; I need a cosmetic bag to take to work” etc etc. All valid arguments, but look in your cupboards – in the bathroom, the bedroom and the wardrobes, and count up how many of these tiny bags you already have. Be honest….how much travelling do you really do with all these little plastic friends?
So, next time that desperate yearning comes over you , think about the fact that you are being a victim of an insidious marketing ploy, and walk away from the cosmetic counter. Just don’t bang into the middle-aged woman with a set expression on her face, clutching bottles and boxes on her way to the counter to plonk them down and claim her “free gift” – it’ll be me.