Have you too been victimised by marketing decoys?

The answer, I’m sure for the majority is yes, even without realising. Everyone loves a bargain right? I can’t speak for us all, but I know for sure I can justify just about absolutely anything that is on sale, regardless whether I need it or not. Initialled mug for my tea? Yes please, because the other 40 cups at home just aren’t the same without the letter ‘N’ on it. A coconut lip scrub with avocado oil for extra soft lips? Aye sure it’s on offer, may as well – You get the drift!

It’s no secret that certain marketing tricks exist to help separate you from more of your money. Most people know about strategic item placement, music to fit your shopping mood, and other tricks of the trade, but are you sharp enough to spot them all?



Here’s a list of 6 marketing stunts we fall victim to everyday;

  1. Decoy Pricing

You know when you’re choosing the size of popcorn you’re going to get at the cinema and the small is £3 and the large is £8? You would probably just buy the small. However, if there was a medium for £7 most people would buy the large because “it’s only one pound more than the medium.” This is a tactic that boosts sales of high profit items by creating another version of the product solely to make the dearer version seem more reasonable by comparison.

  1. The expensive dish on the menu

I’ve always wondered who actually buys the steak at £35 in a restaurant? Apparently, it’s sole purpose isn’t there to be bought. For a long time now, menu strategists have used this tactic of creating one or two ridiculously overpriced options on the menu with the intention to make everything else on the menu appear more affordable. Steak at £35? No way. Prawn Linguini at £23? Yep, bargain!


  1. False sense of urgency

When you are shopping for something but spy the “limited time offer” or “last remaining stock” signs, it’s hard to resist having a look. The latest incarnation is when we are online looking at travel websites. “Limited offer flights to Madrid £60 return. 5 seats remaining, 16 people are currently looking at this offer.” We instantly think “better hustle” and are often persuaded into buying the flights there and then in case we miss such an offer. Often these signs are in red and there is a reason for that: people usually react faster and more forcefully when they see the colour red. Again, mind games!


  1. Odd number pricing strategy

Why is it that a book at £9.99 seems so much cheaper than a book at £10? This hinges on our psychological inclination to think that £9.99 seems closer to £9 than £10 because we see the number 9. We know it’s not true, but it gets us every time!

  1. Buy One Get One Free

It really is no secret that wherever and whenever we see the word ‘free’ we are instantly interested. ‘BOGOF’ is one of shopper marketing’s biggest weapons that we are all well aware of yet still can’t resist it. This usually results in us buying something more expensive than we had planned because we can now justify it by thinking ‘sure I’m getting something free, so the money from that I can spend on something else’- we’ve all been there! Let’s be honest though, most of the time we were never going to buy the ‘free’ item in the first place anyway, nor do we need it, right?


  1. In-store product placement

Ever wonder why you always have to trek to the back of a grocery store just to get a loaf of bread or pint of milk? They are placed at the back for a specific reason. They are necessities that most people come into a grocery store for. Ever see the bright, random offers that greet you as you walk into the grocery store? Yes, they are also there for a specific reason – to make you spend money on things you don’t really need. Having to walk down different isles to get to what you want will increase the chances of you picking up some items that you didn’t come in for thus increasing your spend in the store.


At the end of the day, these secret marketing strategies are just one big catalogue of manipulations really. Hopefully by reading this it will make you slightly more aware of the sneaky games retailers play on us daily.

Niamh Mac Manus is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram – @niamhmacmanus_ , Twitter – @niamh_mac_manus and Linked In – @NiamhMacManus.