The Christmas commercials have been going wild since around Halloween (I even saw one company this year start their layaway commercials in September) with marketing messages deeply rooted in your emotions.

An alien watching our holidays unfold might think our ability to love, be loved, find a job, feel worthy of ourselves, and be friends with cool people is contingent upon our belongings alone.

But let's face it: some of these marketing messages are plain bologna disguised as roast beef. So how do you know which deals to focus on so that you can avoid getting sidetracked by the holiday sideshow?

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I'm going to help you get past the hype by decrypting 3 commonly used marketing messages, starting with the one that inspired this post:

marketing messages

Marketing Message #1: The More You Buy, the More You Save!

Will you actually put money into savings from buying products? No. In fact, it's just the opposite. By taking people up on this marketing message and making that purchase, money flows out of your hands and into theirs.

But saying this is far sexier sounding than saying the truth, which is: the more units you purchase from us, the less the cost per unit you will pay out of your pocket.

Marketing Message #2: Hurry! This One-Day Sale Won't Last Long

Does anyone else get tired of hearing about Macy's one-day sales…which happen to take place probably 60 one-days out of the year? I feel like if you're going to call something a one-day sale, it should happen maybe once or a few times a year at most so that people get really amped up about it, like Filene Basement's Running of the Brides where wedding gowns normally priced up to $9,000 are priced down to as low as $249.

Take the urgency out of this equation by realizing that most stores who advertise one-day sales actually will put the same items on sale again in the next few months. And what happens if you find an item, pay full price for it, and then it goes on sale weeks later? If you paid with your credit card, then use your price protection program to get a refund of the difference. Over the years I've done this twice, for a total refund of $31. Ka-ching!

Marketing Message #3: Buy One Get One Free, Just Pay Shipping & Handling/Processing & Handling

Okay, okay, I expect that free deals are going to have a shipping cost tacked on. It seems quite fair, anyway. But when it's not fair is when manufacturers use this as a scheme to recoup some costs while still maintaining their marketing message that you are getting a “free” product.

Case in point: I once had an offer in my inbox saying I would get a free photo book after purchasing another one. Score! I love to scrapbook (like when I created this inexpensive family heirloom to commemorate our Hungarian roots).

Upon opening the email, I found that you had to pay shipping. Okay, I get that.

But after ordering the photo book, they charged me an egregious $10.99 for shipping & handling, for each photo book! So I had to purchase the first book, and then pay an inflated $21.98 in shipping & handling…meaning I certainly did not get a “free” photo book, after all.

Another example is on where they offer a Buy 1 Get 1 Free deal, plus processing and handling (P&H). So you end up paying $7.99-$10.99 P&H for the first hose, then an additional $7.99-$10.99 P&H for the second hose…coming to a total of at least $15.98 in P&H fees (which likely covers their cost of manufacturing for that second hose they're giving you for “free”).

Bottom line with these kinds of deals? Be sure to check how much the shipping & handling/ P&H will cost before making your decision. Then you can determine if you're really getting ahead or not.

Could any deals offered under these marketing messages still be a deal for you? Absolutely. But it's important to not go into them thinking that you are getting exactly what the marketing hype says you are…because in most cases, the truth is being stretched further than a $1.00 bill at a $1.10 dollar store.

Share your “favorite” marketing messages in the comments below!

2 replies
  1. Money Beagle
    Money Beagle says:

    The bottom line is that if something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Bar Louie is a burger and bar place and one day a week they have $1 burgers. Which sounds amazing. Except you get charged for anything that goes on the burger and you also must buy a drink. Most people say that when it’s all said and done, you end up paying just about the same amount as if you went on any other day of the week. It’s all marketing and getting people in the door.

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