Who has the power to influence our actions?

Every day we are exposed to images and messages coming at us from all directions. In the advertising world, each individual exposure is called an “impression”. Multiple exposures to one particular “impression” can make us do things. The ability to make us do things is valuable. Companies spend big bucks on the impressions that make us spend money.

Imagine this scenario:
You need milk. On the way to the grocery store you pass some billboards, “Buy this Car”, “See this Movie”, and “Got Milk?”. Impression, impression, impression. You drive by storefronts, bus stops and see people wearing messages on T-Shirts. More impressions. You park your car and before you even get to the store, you see a big red soda vending machine out front with a popular logo we’ve seen a million times. The front window is adorned with signage depicting a frosty bottle with dripping condensation showing the same red branded soda. You enter the store and notice a nifty pyramid of red stacked soda six packs and a sign boldly showing a reduced price. You head toward the back of the store to get your milk. Walking past various flavors of said red soda you might notice the large, bold discounted prices. You make it to the milk – time to grab and go. You can now walk back through that infinite hallway of soda or select a detour that takes you under a red sign beckoning, “Drink C____” suspended from the ceiling. You get the idea.

While standing in line at the register waiting to pay for your milk, which would apply to you?

  1. “Yay! I’ve got milk for my cereal tomorrow.”
  2. “I’m so thirsty. Too bad I don’t like that red brand of soda. Such a bargain. I’ll just grab a water out of this handy ice cold refrigerator.”
  3. “Oh man, thank goodness there’s a cooler right here. I’m dying for a C____. I think I’ll grab two since they are on sale.”
  4. “I sure am glad I came to the store today to get milk because I really scored! Got a couple of six packs of my favorite soda. In fact, I better go back and get more and stock up because that is such a great deal!”

The huge sums spent on advertising proves that we are all susceptible to these impressions. Our actions are influenced by subliminal, overt, intentional or unintentional messages to lesser or greater degrees depending on our preferences and current state of mind.

Knowing how difficult it can be to overcome addictive impulses, it is imperative that we stand guard at the door of our minds and consciously filter the messages we are exposed to that influence our behavior. Products are frequently and intentionally “placed” in strategic scenes of tv shows and movies. The controversy resulting in the inclusion of addictive substances such as showing the enjoyment of drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes in our entertainment rages on. The false impression that it is cool to over-indulge in addictive substances are all around us.

To quantify exactly how many times a day the average person is exposed to intentional advertising impressions is extremely difficult. If you Google this topic you’ll find articles and research that report numbers between 3,000 to 5,000 impressions per day. That is probably a conservative number when you consider being bombarded by influential messages is likely to continue, especially with increased access to online media which also includes the added influence of all the facebook posts by your 500 “friends” .

Obviously, not all of these impressions are unhealthy or lead to unbridled addictive compulsion. We aren’t that gullible. The focus of this article isn’t to “out” the advertising and film industries and shock you with statistics – it’s just a gentle reminder to be mindful.

Let’s assume our exposure to mind shaping impressions is likely to increase.


Is our awareness of the effect these impressions have on us increasing?

Do we filter out unwanted messages and reframe them into healthy affirmations that reflect our choices?

With increasing awareness, WE have the real power to shape our thoughts, beliefs and actions.