Advertising and Branding in Cities

While there is debate about the effectiveness of advertising in society, few can escape the reach of advertising in everyday life in cities. One morning on my way to work in New York City, I decided to observe the effects of advertising in the city. As I turned on my TV, to watch the weather update, I was introduced to the newest cereal from General Mills. The newspaper dropped in front of my door informing me of the sale this weekend at BestBuy. On my walk to the subway, word of mouth presented information about free t-mobile cell phones. Walking in the subway, I was greeted by a poster by New York’s Finest reminding me to keep a look out “IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING”. Recapping a drink I bought in the subway, I was reminded to “drink more water”, a slogan on the bottle of Aquafina. Browsing through my email messages on my phone, I deleted a message from eBay telling me about the “top 10 presents” to give out this Christmas season. A button on the lady standing beside me told me to vote for Obama. I couldn’t but notice a slogan on the rare of her shirt stating “VOTE OR DIE”. I had merely begun my day and already seven sources of advertising and branding had reached me, not counting the various posters and branding in the subway and the train cars.

According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, Advertising is defined as “the activity of attracting public attention to a product or business. For the most part, advertising promotes a sale, but it can also be used to push people to drive safely or vote for a certain political candidate. A brand is a non-generic product name that is designed to set that particular product apart from the competition. A brand generally aims to make a product a household word that all people will recognize (Vivian, p. 302). An example of this is Kleenex, which is actually a brand name, but most people generally call all tissues Kleenex. While advertising is a promotion of a certain product or service, a brand can be seen as a “symbolic embodiment” of all the information connected with a product or service. This typically includes the name of the company, the logo, and any other visual elements. There are two parts to branding: the experiential aspect and the psychological aspect. The sum of all the points of contact with the brand is known as the brand experience, and this makes up the experiential aspect. The symbolic construct created in the minds of the public is the psychological aspect, or brand image, and consists of all the information and expectations associated with the product or service (“Brand-Wikipedia”).

In medieval cities, advertising (of a sort) was conducted by word of mouth. The invention of moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440s allowed mass production of the printed word and thus made advertising to the masses possible. There were flyers first and then came newspaper and magazine advertisements. William Caxton, a British printer, promoted his book with the first printed advertisement in 1468. The first advertisement was published in the Boston News-Letter by Joseph Campbell in 1704; it was a notice from someone wanting to sell a Long Island estate.

When technology was able to produce high-speed presses in the 1800s, advertisers used the larger audiences created by these machines to expand markets (Vivian, p. 296). The growth of business in the 1800s was accompanied by the expansion of an advertising industry; with this growth came the advent of the advertising agency. The first agencies were basically just brokers for space in newspapers, but by the early 1900s, agencies started being actively involved in producing the advertising message itself, including copy and artwork. Soon advertising agencies could plan and execute complete advertising campaigns, starting with the initial research to the preparation of the copy, and ending with the placement of the advertisement into various media (“Advertising”).

Brands in the marketing field originated in the 1800s with the coming of packaged goods. Wide-spread industrialization caused the production of household items from local communities to more centralized factories. In turn, the factories needed to sell their products to a wider audience. Since the consumers were used to their local products, a generic package of a product had a hard time competing with the familiarity of the local item. The manufacturers needed a way to convince consumers that they could trust the product sold by the new company. James Walter Thompson published an ad explaining trademark advertising around 1900, which was an early explanation of what is known today as branding. The manufacturers of the time wanted their products to feel as familiar as the local farmer’s produce, and so, with the help of advertising, they learned to relate other kinds of brand values (like luxury or fun) with their products (“Brand-Wikipedia”).

Advertising is a form of communication intended to convince consumers to buy certain products or services. Advertising also creates a demand for certain products and thus manipulates economic behavior. There are three basic components to advertising.

First, there is the information component. Ads let the potential customer know about the product: the ad informs the consumer about the price of the product, different features of the product, and anything else that could convince the person to purchase the product. Another part of any ad is the entertainment factor. All advertisements need to catch the attention of the viewer or listener and hold that attention. If an ad can grab consumers and hold them, then there is a greater possibility that the person will remember that product and will buy it in the future. In order to catch people’s attention, most advertisements need to appeal to the desire of the audience for visual exhilaration, humor, and just basic entertainment. The last component of an ad is persuasion, which is immensely important; this aspect appeals to the conscious, and even the unconscious, desires (and sometimes fears) of the audience. This could concern sex, security, status, or social acceptance. People have a constant need to have the latest product or service. As our society turns more and more to materialism, people want more and more products and feel they need to have them in order to fit in with the rest of society (Vivian, p. 294-295).

In order to figure out what advertisements to place where, and what type of audience to target, advertisers use demographics, geodemographics, and psychographics. Demographics are characteristics of groups within a population which can include gender, age, and political affiliations. This is useful to advertisers so they know what their audience is likely to favor, and who is going to need more persuasion to convince them to buy a certain product. Today, more common methods used for analyzing audiences include geodemographics and psychographics, which break down lifestyles. Geodemography was developed by Jonathan Robbin who grouped every zip code by ethnicity, family life cycle, housing, mobility, and social rank. These groups help advertisers narrow their audiences down even more.

Psychographics is a refined lifestyle breakdown that was introduced in the late 1970s. It uses an eighty-five-page survey to identify broad categories of people, such as “belongers”, “achievers”, and “emulators”. All of these processes allow advertisers to analyze their audiences in order for them to create advertisements most likely to catch the attention of the viewers and listeners (Vivian, p. 350-353).

Advertisers have a variety of techniques available for them to use in order to convince the public to buy their product and mold the attitude of the public towards that product. If advertisers use “repetition”, they want to make sure the product they are trying to sell is widely recognized. They do this by repeating the name of the product or company to try and make sure that the name is remembered. When using the “bandwagon” technique, advertisers imply that their product is widely used and the consumer should “jump on the bandwagon.” “Testimonials” seek to promote the high quality of the product by using the testimony of experts and users. This can involve an “appeal to authority” as well. A good example of a commercial where testimonial is used is the Geico commercial; ks-States “the name and location of the person giving the testimony and the opening line says: “this is an actual Geico customer and not a paid celebrity”. Another technique used by advertisers is “pressure”. They want to make quick sales by getting people to choose quickly without lengthy considerations. “Appeal to emotion” is used heavily in the advertising industry and encompasses three common argumentative appeals. This appeal is intended to provoke an emotional reaction within the viewer or listener and includes wishful thinking, appeal to flattery, and appeal to ridicule. Appeals to pity (often used by charities), fear (used in public service messages), and spite (used in ads aimed at younger demographics) are also applied by advertisers. “Association” uses appealing imagery to make its product attractive.

This could mean using beautiful models (also known as sex in advertising), gorgeous landscapes, and other images that could make people want to consume the product. This is called branding when used on a large scale. Advertising slogans use a variety of techniques in order to catch the attention of consumers. Subliminal messages, which use hypnosis, are generally discredited today, but they used to be feared. People were afraid that some advertisements would contain hidden messages or words and would somehow affect the viewer. Subliminal sex messages are still common in car commercials, magazine ads, and on billboards, with suggestively placed objects (“Advertising-Wikipedia).

Advertising makes the American public concerned with keeping up with the newest trends and styles.

The drive to stay in fashion brings thousands to the malls to prepare for the change of seasons in style.

Cosmetics are an excellent example of the vanity of America, a billion-dollar industry essentially based on the desire to look presentable. The marketplace plays on whatever society places importance on, which is sometimes regulated by the mass media and the businesses that produce the products.

The desire to stay young makes many willing to open their wallets and purses, paying a little more for the name on the label. Seeing the beautiful girls attracted to a slim loser caused Axe body spray to become a top seller. Sex sells in American culture today, a concept that is not popular with some traditional households. Modesty has taken a backseat in pop culture and contemporary fashion. This is evident in the average advertisement targeting teens on MTV. Good brand marketing isolates a demographic and focuses on that group of consumers.

Materialism is portrayed as a measure of happiness by advertising companies. It is not good enough to have just any type of product; it has to be the brand name. Little girls want Barbie dolls, and boys want real Legos and Tonka trucks. This principle follows most people throughout life.

Teenage girls want designer clothes and Louis Vuitton purses, and their male counterparts must have Air Jordans for basketball. College students are in constant competition to have the best of the best. The contact with the brand, or brand experience, along with the brand image creates a familiar product that is recognized by large quantities of people for a successful brand (“Brand”, Wikipedia). Some companies aim to be repetitive, like car commercials that run all day long on television. To maximize exposure, some advertisements run through more than one medium. A big sale at Best Buy might run commercial spots on radio and television, and advertise in the local newspaper. As a brand becomes exposed in the mainstream, more people become familiar with the product and can help expand the consumer base through word of mouth.

Word of mouth is one of the greatest tools for advertising in cities since people are more concentrated in cities; the probability of holding a conversation with a stranger is more likely. Many companies hire people to go advertise their products from door to door. Real estate agents are known to approach homeowners verbally inquiring to sell their homes.

Logos and name display help trigger the memory of consumers.

Automobile logos are a sign of prestige for wealthy car-owners. In baseball, a “Y” cap for the Yankees acceptable by New York City residents might cause a riot to break out at Fenway Park in Boston. A product that is presented nicely will be more attractive to the eye. Fast food logos like Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King are large, visible from a block away.

Mascots are important for attracting a young audience, who know how to influence the purchasing power of their parents. Nearly every child has a fondness for the golden arches of McDonald’s. This attachment extends through generations, and the success of the company is obvious. Morgan Spurlock examines the effects of this particular relationship in his 2004 film Supersize Me. The film examines the negative sides of such a dominant source of America’s consumption.

In a focus group conducted by the filmmaker, Ronald McDonald was more identifiable to children than a picture of Jesus Christ.

Many people feel a certain loyalty to their brands. These loyalties may come from companies manufacturing gasoline, medicine, groceries, clothing, or other products. Even if ingredients are the same, many are willing to overlook a discount and return home with the famous names in hand. The aim of brand management is to create an identity for the brand that the consumer identifies with. Those who clean usually have a preference for a certain brand of soap, detergent, or bleach. In the same respect, the man of the house might have a specific brand of power tools that they believe in to get the job done. The household cook may only use Gold Medal flour when in the kitchen.

Similar examples are found all over the house. Some brands have built a reputation for quality products that many people are familiar with. Fender guitars are high-quality instruments. BMW cars are more luxurious than Chevrolets. For those that can afford these types of products, it can sometimes be an outward sign of wealth.

Besides economic indicators, the success of a brand is sometimes recorded by tests of metacognitive accuracy (Krug, p. 8). Graphs show calibration curves that record how a product performs in comparison with the expected performance. Sometimes no advertising is necessary, as is the case with the millions who have bought and worn yellow Livestrong bracelets to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Due to the power that companies have from sponsorships, conflicts of interest sometimes arise for the networks that cover the news. For example, ABC is not likely to cover negative events taking place at Disneyland, because Disney is a major affiliate of ABC.

The commitment to the audience should ideally outweigh the commitment to the affiliate or sponsor. Political campaigns are often driven primarily by donations, many of which come from big business, with expectations of favorable legislation for that company in the future.

The regulation comes into play to protect the viewing audience, like at times while children may be exposed. Cigarette advertisements have been cut from television altogether. Some interest groups feel that advertisers should be taxed because the space ads take in society is a nuisance. The state of Florida tried to enact such a requirement in 1987, but it was repealed after 6 months because of the large-scale loss of commercial interest (Wikipedia). While advertising spots frequently promote their product using means of subjective statements, regulation is supposed to prevent outright lies. Occasionally campaigns will be banned if the materials are deemed inappropriate for the audience likely to be receiving the medium. In some cases, the FCC will take action, and lawsuits might be filed in extreme cases.

The stream of advertising is constantly advancing along with technology. These ads now extend to movies, buses, supermarkets, bookstores, the internet, and video billboards. In this age of advanced communications, it is difficult to find shelter from the bombardment of advertising in our society. Pop-up advertisements and spam emails are all over the internet, and bothersome to many who do not wish to view them. Just about every advertisement presents a link to a website, where many of the ads can be viewed or seen.

And the final thing to mention is that economists have controversial opinions about the economic effect of advertising. Advertising is very important for the economy of the country, its society, and the political system. Its effect is especially evident in the USA where the branch of advertising plays a decisive role. Most economists keep to the point that advertising has a positive effect on the economy promoting different goods and services and increasing demand for them. The manufacturers are perfectly aware of the fact that advertising helps sell a new product in the shortest possible time compensating for losses on the production of new goods. Another great economical function of advertising is that it increases competitiveness which leads to the reduction of prices thus being of great use for customers and the economy in general.

However, there is also another point that states that advertising can be wasteful. Some economists insist that the cost of advertising is simply added to the cost of products encouraging the customers to buy one brand rather than some other. According to this idea, advertising merely transfers sales from one company to another instead of increasing sales in general and in this way to be of a benefit to the economy.

Works Cited

“Advertising- Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia” –

Advertising.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

Baksh, Stokely. “Brand-name Drug Prices Far Outpacing Generics “. Published in: UPI. Web.

“Brand – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia” – Web.

Krug, Kevin. “Eyewitness Memory and Metamemory in Product Identification: Evidence for Familiarity Biases “. Published in the Journal of General Psychology. New York: Hildref Publishing, January 2005.

Moskowitz, Howard ET. all. “Brand Name Anatomy”. Marketing Research: A Magazine of Management & Applications. Volume 17, 2005, Web.

Johnson, Robbin. “Advertising Jingles – Food and Drink” 2005. Web.

Quart, Alissa. Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Vivian, John. The Media of Mass Communication. New York: Pearson. 2005

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