Understanding the Reason Behind Advertising, and How a Commercial Influences Our Behavior.

If you haven’t already guessed it. I hate any and all commercials!! Good or bad!! I think they’re a huge waste of my time, and I never act on them . . . or so I thought.

How many times has this happened to you? You’re in the middle of your favorite TV show, and during a suspenseful point in the show, they cut to a commercial break.

If you said – “Every time!! . . . there are always commercials!!”, you would be right. Do you hate them as much as I do?

I think that’s one reason why Netflix and other streaming services have taken off – because they have fewer or no commercials. I like to leave the room during commercials, or do something else, because anything I do is more useful than just sitting and watching them!

Anyway, how often do you watch a commercial and think – I really need one of _____- fill in the blank? In other words, how often do you act on the commercials that you see? Be honest.

I’ve often wondered, who buys all this stuff? Really! Do commercials actually influence consumer behavior or do they just fill time? How can people afford a Lexus for Christmas and a Lincoln for President’s Day? (who buys stuff just because it’s President’s Day anyway?)

I know this is not something that we can control (unless you don’t watch TV). But I think we can understand why commercials influence consumer behavior, and how to adjust our thinking to combat them.don't get caught watching a commercial

The Purpose of Commercials

So why do companies spend so much money advertising on TV? They must be making money somehow, Right?

The truth is: They are making money. They’re able to charge more for identical products because of their brand. They’re creating brand identity.

When you see a Cadillac, or someone says that they just bought a Cadillac, what comes to your mind? “Wow, they must be doing well.” Or, “I wonder what they do for a living that they can afford a Cadillac?” Or, “I wish I had the money they have.”

But if we can rationally think for a minute here. Is a Cadillac really worth the money you spend on it? Of course it’s a good quality car. And I’m sure Cadillac would tell you that it IS most definitely worth every penny.

But in reality, you’re buying the brand. You’re spending money not only on a good quality car, but you’re also spending your money for the name recognition.

How many of us want that feeling of – I have something that is prized and coveted? That’s what you’re paying for. When you see those commercials, you may not necessarily go and buy a car the next weekend. But you do build a perception in your mind that a Cadillac is worth the money and the status that goes with it.

The same can be said for BMW and Jaguar. These companies pay for the commercials in order to realize long-term returns. Because brand identity takes time.

Do Commercials Influence Consumer Behavior?

This post is not necessarily about luxury cars. The same thinking can apply to other consumer goods as well. Think about jeans. What brands come to mind? Lee, Guess, Levi’s, Wrangler (remember Brett Favre? – real . . . comfortable . . . jeans)? And the list goes on.

What about fast food? Sonic, McDonald’s, Burger King, or Arby’s (“We have the meats.”) These companies are building a brand.

This brand will keep people (consumers) – like you and I – coming back time and again for a product we think is superior (whether it actually is or not).

That’s the point of all those annoying commercials. We remember them whether we intend to or not. We can’t help it.

Every time we drive past Arby’s, my son from the back seat, yells – “We have the meats!” in the deepest voice he can muster. He’s seen the commercial so often, that he’s conditioned to think that Arby’s makes the best “meat” sandwiches.

But when it comes down to it, we can help where we spend our cash. We actually have never stopped at Arby’s, no matter how often he trumpets their tagline.

To be honest, I have remembered commercials as well. Especially the funny ones. And it has certainly shaped my opinions about different companies. For instance, I think of the Haribo gummy bears as a great way to bring out the kid in each of us!!

So what can we as consumers do?commercial break

Combating the Commercial Culture

Don't buy something just because you recognize it from a commercial! Click To Tweet

So now that we are armed with this information, what should we do? Should we stop buying name-brand merchandise?

No, not necessarily. We need to evaluate why we are purchasing one brand over another. Is it really worth more than another brand? In some cases; it may very well be. In other cases, we may be caught in the trap of over-paying for an inferior product just because we recognize it from a commercial.


The point is: be a savvy consumer. Don’t buy something for the supposed status that it offers. Resist the urge to pay a little more, just because of the brand. Research and know the product you are buying.

Don’t buy on impulse. And for sure, resist the payment syndrome!!

Remember this the next time you get annoyed at commercials on TV or the radio, and don’t get sucked in to their brand identity building schemes.

What about you? Do you research your purchases or buy on name recognition?

Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it using the social media links provided.



Chris is the original Cash Dad. He's a father of 3 and a mechanical engineer by trade.


  1. My son only watches stuff from Netflix or on DVD. We recorded a Toy Story holiday special and then commercials started playing, he got super confused. I took that as a victory since my son doesn’t see commercials he isn’t bombarded by consumerism habits.

    We have some shows we like to watch from TV but have a DVR so we can watch them on our own time. Side effect: don’t have to sit through commercials 😀

  2. One of the major benefits of cord cutting, other then the Super Bowl no one in my house sees commercials anymore. We buy whatever is the best price per quality. Quality being defined by which items with less negative reviews for aspects we care about. Even positive reviews these days are usually fake advertising.

  3. Great post….so true! Consumers need self-defense training, because there are big bucks trying to get inside our minds. I have a similar feeling about magazines and think they should be avoided. People pay for the privilege of seeing a ton of ads, showing extensively photoshopped people wearing watches, clothing or jewelry or pitching makeup or perfume. So suddenly if you’re not careful, you sit down with your $5 magazine and suddenly “need” that $20, $200 or maybe $2,000 item (or more, because maybe you really, really now need a Rolex!). That same need will probably be long forgotten after you’ve had the item for a couple weeks and you would have never had that temptation had you not bought the magazine. It’s not that hard to save more and spend less if you’re just a bit more strategic about it.

  4. I haven’t seen any commercials in a while considering we only watch Netflix/Prime and HBOGo. Sometimes when we watch something on one of the other free apps, we’ll see a commercial but that’s about it. It sure is annoying to get the same commercial 3 times in a row as is often the case on those app tv channels.

    • Chris Reply

      I agree. And we only see commercials now during TV sports.
      Thanks for the comment.

  5. I don’t watch any sports or have cable tv so it was nice to get a break from commercials for the last 5 years of that lifestyle change. That being said I am an avid YouTube and Vlog watcher, the rise of ads there is growing bigger every day as companies have clued in to that being the new platform.

    • Chris Reply

      They always seem to find you don’t they? I have noticed too that YouTube has more and more ads also.
      Just don’t get sucked in. ?

  6. So true. You are right about the conditioning. If I have a choice in the store I might pick the brand I have seen on TV just because I have heard of it. I did that with blue bunny ice cream not too long ago. That little blue bunny hoping across the screen definitely brainwashed me into thinking I needed to try that ice cream.

  7. I was so happy when my 5 year old Tivo recently got upgraded with the new ‘commercial skip’ button – while before I had to fast forward the commercials, now I just click the button and it just jumps right to the start of the next segment! no need to see the commercials whiz by anymore, and I save 5-10 seconds per commercial break! Alas, it is not compatible with all shows, especially for sporting events or old repeats, and I have to fast forward the old fashioned way…

    • Chris Reply

      I usually only see commercials during sporting events, because we don’t actually watch TV that much. I have to watch them live too.
      Thanks for the comment. ?

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