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The influence of media on consumer behavior is profound. The billions of dollars spent in advertising each year attest to the impact of media on consumer purchasing and buying preferences. The ability of media to shape consumer trends and tastes through media such as movies, television shows and music is all-pervasive. New media such as Internet sites accelerates consumer receptivity to products through comments made on websites and blogs.
Media is such a part of our daily lives that we don’t even realize it's influencing us in big and small ways. Media use in advertising is purposely designed to elicit a change in consumer action, belief and perception. It unabashedly woos us to buy products we don’t need and trust wholly with product claims that are puffery or exaggerated. While it's generally known that we're being swayed for commercial reasons, the consuming public allows these forays because media pays for shows on television or music on the radio as well as the information and news we read in newspapers and magazines.
Media can shape who we are as both public and private people. The adage you are what you consume should apply to media as much as it does to food. A celebrity wears a certain clothes ensemble or mentions the designer, manufacturer or store where it was purchased and almost immediately, sales for that item skyrocket. Celebrity endorsers bring instant brand awareness and receptivity even if indirect. Advertisers pay to get their products conspicuous placement in TV and movies because they believe these seemingly non-commercial associations will result in positive uplift and eventually, sales.
The Internet has added significantly to media’s ability to influence consumers. There are thousands of websites from both commercial and private sources hawking everything for sale under the sun. While consumers still retain a bit of guarded concern on those commercial entities they know are out for a buck, they tend to be swayed and a bit more open to entreaties from bloggers and forum posts, which they typically view as unbiased third parties.
Websites such as Angies’ List and The Urban Shopper exist to guide consumers in their choice of products and services, locally and nationally. The consumerism adage “Buyer Beware” is needed more than ever as the power of all media to influence and inform and impact consumerism continues grows exponentially, and more people have access to that media, with fewer controls in place to scrutinize what's respectable or true.
Marla Currie has written professionally since 1995. She is editor and publisher of The Urban Shopper, an online magazine whose consumerist content is targeted to Black and Latino females. In addition to short fiction, Currie is author of "The Humours of Black Life," a nonfiction work. She has a master's degree in advertising.