Consensus Opinion: Advertising vs. Quality

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

Why are mass-advertised goods often bad quality?

From Apple iPhones to Lululemon leggings to LeBron James basketball shoes, branding is more important than ever. While quality has some impact on a company’s brand, celebrity endorsements, mass marketing ploys and familiarity drive the purchase of goods. However, while this branding may be widespread, such as with the new “Mean Girls” movie, the actual product often falls far below expectations. Given the prevalence of this form of marketing and the incongruence between advertising and quality, we at the Technique wish to discuss the circumstances surrounding this phenomenon and its numerous causes.

One reason mass marketing schemes and quality are sometimes mutually exclusive is items of good quality tend to be more expensive. These products do not receive as much marketing due to their air of exclusivity. This is not something to be changed by the average consumer, as they do not have access to higher-end products and higher-quality marketing. The average consumer is not the target. 

On the other hand, high-end brands sponsor many sporting events high-end brands, such as Rolex for the Wimbledon tennis tournament and Omega for Olympic Team USA. Companies bombard millions of viewers worldwide with advertising, and the courts and fields even have logos sprayed onto them. Media such as movies tout similar, unashamed brand placements. In “Barbie,” the car scenes in the “real world” obviously advertised for Chevrolet. In “Mean Girls,” the characters used makeup products with the brand Elf emblazoned on them. 

However, not all advertising is so overt. On social media such as TikTok and Instagram, the lines between advertising and content have become blurry. It is confusing and manipulative to see a creator using a product they claim to enjoy, but it is secretly an advertisement. The TikTok algorithm, especially, is extremely aggressive about advertisements. One click on a pair of pajamas results in a constant bombardment of TikTok Shop links with pajamas, and these shops are often unidentifiable when dropshipping. Instagram users are not safe from this either. Ads and suggested content are squeezed in between the posts of friends. While to some, this may be more of a nuisance, many consumers fall into these traps. This only encourages companies to add more and more ads to all of the content we consume. Streaming services, which previously served as an escape from cable, have returned to cable-like package deals and long advertisement breaks. Hulu’s basic package has ads before and during an episode of a show. There has indubitably been an increased prevalence of ads and no matter where we might escape to, it seems to follow and take over. 

In contemporary society, marketing tactics matter more than ever. As strategies and talent in the marketing industry increase, so do bombardment of consumers with ads. Terence Reilly moved from chief marketing officer at Crocs to president of Stanley, the beverage cup company. In his time at both companies, his strategies shot both to fame after previously having faded into irrelevance. While Tik Tok and other content advertisers may influence consumers to some extent, it requires immense thought and effort to change a global mindset towards a brand. 

If we as consumers are frustrated by platforms that force us to consume incessant advertising, the most powerful solution would be to stop using those platforms. Companies follow profits, and if constant ads are driving away customers, they would reduce the ads. It would also be helpful to bring back unsponsored “top ten” lists, such as on Wired, that can look at the quality of products and set up a homogenized testing system. Parents should teach their children to use resources such as this and develop a better understanding of parsing through advertising. The United States must force advertisers to follow more stringent guidelines; however, in the meantime, the responsibility lies on consumers to take back control of the market.

The Consensus Opinion reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board of the Technique, but not necessarily the opinions of individual editors.