Tuesday , February 20 2024
Don't let marketing buzzwords and scarcity messaging urge you into impulse purchases this holiday season.

Language Matters in Life and Business: Impulse Control When You Shop

With the holiday season looming, the temptation to impulse-buy for ourselves while shopping for gifts for others can be hard to resist. A 2010 survey commissioned by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that 80 percent of American adults “say they’ve made impulse purchases in the past year for themselves, others or their home.”

Regret follows many of these purchases.

Search “impulse buying” online and you’ll find sensible advice on how to avoid it: Budget. Stick to your list. Stay away from the mall. Bring cash or a debit card instead of a credit card.

Another effective tactic is to familiarize yourself with the language retailers use to induce you to spend those hard-earned funds you probably really need for something else.

The Scarcity Scare

Probably because we evolved in an environment of scarcity, our psychology motivates us to buy when we believe something is hard to come by or might be so tomorrow. Watch out for language like “going fast,” “this deal won’t last,” and “not available in stores.” Even if the phrase is true – and in some cases that’s a big “if” – don’t let it affect rational decision-making about what you need to buy and when.


Marketing buzzwords come and go, but they’re always designed to take advantage of attributes we’ve been conditioned to think of as positive. A few common buzzwords you see these days:

Artisan. (Practically meaningless.)
Authentic. (As opposed to what?)
All-new. (Does that make it better than the one you have now?)
Boutique. (Just means a higher mark-up.)
Couture. (A fancy word for clothes.)
Disruptor, disruptive. (Jargon for “innovative.” Usually means the same old thing with a fresh-faced young CEO.)

wendys artisan egg sandwichAnd that’s just a few from the “A through D” volume of the buzzword encyclopedia. Look for these and other buzzwords in advertisements and product labels. If a word or phrase evokes a thought or a feeling in you, remember: It’s meant to. And the message does not necessarily reflect the reality.

So spend your money on what you know you need, or, if you can spare it, on things you know will make you happy because you know yourself.

Not on things that buzzwords and scarcity messaging are playing on the primitive part of your brain to get you to buy on impulse.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at http://www.orenhope.com/ you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at http://parkodyssey.blogspot.com/ where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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