Creating a balanced lifestyle involves all aspects of life; mind, body & soul. So it’s important we make a conscious effort to care about what we are putting in our bodies to fuel our everyday activities. But its not always as easy as walking into the health food isle of your super market and selecting your products from there. Why? Because marketers are smart these days and will do or say anything to make you believe their product is healthy.
After studying marketing at University as part of my Bachelors degree in Business, completing a Diploma of Social Media Marketing and now having worked in the industry full-time for over a year, I have become so much more aware of the sneaky tactics used by some companies these days.
When I first became more healthy-conscious I remember walking into the health food isle and being so overwhelmed by all the different claims and terminology being used on products. “DHA Omega 3”. “Contains whole wheat”. “With antioxidants”. What did all these things mean and were they even relevant? So I went home and did my research. Now, I understand the lengths marketers will go to in order to get you to perceive their product as ‘healthy’. I no longer trust what I read on the packages. I’ve learn’t to turn straight to the nutrition label and ingredients list so I can make my judgement based on solid facts.
My research proved exactly what I suspected; many foods that are marketed as ‘health foods’ or ‘super foods’ these days, aren’t really all that ‘healthy’ or ‘super’ at all. This perception comes from the clever tricks marketers in this industry employ to get you to think their products actually have some superior benefit to your health because consumers are increasingly becoming more health conscious. But what they aren’t becoming is better educated. Relying solely on the claims made on the product packaging isn’t going to lead to a balanced nor healthy lifestyle. But by being aware of these marketing tricks you can make better-informed decisions about the foods you choose to fuel your body with.
- Claims like “fat free” or “low fat” doesn’t mean the product is good for you. Companies often compensate for the lost taste from lower fat content by pumping the product with added sugars; which really are no better for your health than the full-fat version would have been. Fats keep you full, so by choosing these lower fat or fat-free alternatives, you may be consuming overall fewer calories at the time but your going to be reaching for something else a lot sooner. Balance is all about everything in moderation, including healthy fats!
2. The word “natural” can be used on just about any food product these days. People today are becoming more health conscious and trying to buy foods that we perceive as better for us, so obviously ‘natural’ has to be better, right? Technically speaking, the answer is yes, but companies can add the word ‘natural’ to the marketing of any products that don’t contain “added colours, artificial flavours or synthetic substances”. That’s quite a broad range of products! I don’t know about you, but when I think of “natural”, I think of food in its most whole and organic state; clearly not the case with a lot of “natural” products out there.
3. Use of colour. If you’ve ever read about the psychology of colour you’ll know that different colours can make you associate certain traits with products, therefore the colour of food package can actually influence how healthy we perceive the food inside it to be. One study actually found consumer’s perceptions of two identical chocolate bars was influenced by the colour of the nutritional label despite the calorie information being identical –consumers perceived the green coloured label to be healthier. For example, look at products like Milo cereal or Activia yoghurt – both utilising the natural green colour to give the impression of ‘healthy and natural’. Also take a look at Carmen’s using the natural earthy brown tones for their packaging to give the impression of being ‘wholesome and organic’.
4. Weasel claims. These are claims on food packages that imply the food contains certain ingredients or has been prepared in a way that makes it ‘healthier’ – e.g. natural, healthy etc. These words actually have no legal or formal meaning and the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code doesn’t regulate nor define these loose terms – so basically any company or product can chuck those claims onto their product.
5. ‘Healthy’ brand names. The brand name of the product we buy often acts as a pretty big indicator and deciding factor in whether or not we deem the product to be healthy. So by company’s employing names that explicitly claim their healthiness, they are ultimately attempting to convince poorly educated yet health conscious consumers that they are in fact the ‘healthiest’ choice. Take these two snack bars below for example, to the uneducated consumer looking for a healthy snack bar option, they would be more inclined to choose the brand ‘Healtheries’ because it explicitly implies it’s a healthy option with the brand name as opposed to the generic name of ‘Kez’s Kitchen’. However, a closer look at the nutrition label and ingredients list highlights Kez’s Kitchen Sticky Date bars are a far more balanced and healthy option – with all natural, recognisable ingredients and a well balanced nutritional panel.
So basically, if a food product has to try and convince you it is healthy with these marketing tricks, it probably isn’t healthy. In creating a balanced lifestyle for yourself its important to be aware of these tricks marketers employ so you can make well-informed and healthier decisions.