Consumer Behavior · Marketing Theories · Music Marketing

Supermarketing: psychological mindgames of supermarkets

We all know it: we go to the supermarket fully planning on finally beginning a healthy life, but somehow you’ve found yourself on the couch again, with a bag of crisps and a life size stash worth of chocolates. How did this happen!? Where did we go wrong? Is our discipline really that embarrassingly low; or are there other factors at play? Well, the latter seems to be the case. You see: supermarkets are masters of psychological mind games, that keep making us want to buy shit (excuse my language) we don’t even need. Being poor students, it’s about time we knew how these sneaky bastards play with our minds. I shall call it Supermarketing, and here’s how it works:

We enter the store…

…and we usually see the fruit and vegetables section. Now, this has several reasons.

It makes us happy

First of all, the fruit and vegetables look so joyfully colourful and fresh, that it instantly makes us happy. We then see the rest of the store in a positive light. This, in turn, makes us more susceptible to other marketing tricks.

The marketplace-feeling

Looking more closely, notice that in most supermarkets fruits and vegetables are gathered in big bins. Now, this is some really farfetched stuff, but the vegetables and fruits in bins are supposed to give us a feeling of being at an outdoor market, which then gives us a (false) indication of low prices. Crazy, right? Even crazier is that this stuff actually works.

Trigger for unhealthy consumptions

But wait, there’s more! Once we have obediently put some fruits and vegetables into our cart (which is designed to show the bottom for as long as possible – so it seems emptier, and so we keep buying stuff), we start thinking about how super healthy we are being. Once we see that bag of crisps or other UNhealthy items, we buy it more easily because we’ll feel less guilty.

Moving on

Most supermarkets have approximately the same mapping: as mentioned above, you start at the fruits and vegetables area. Then there are some really tactic places for other products:

  1. All the ingredients for your diner can be found close to one another: it makes you more eager to combine a lot of products to make a lovely meal. The same goes for breakfast and lunch.
  2. Milk and cosmetics are necessities. They are placed at the very back of the store. This way we pass all other isles to get to the place we need to be. By that time, however, we’ve probably already grabbed some stuff we didn’t think we needed before we walked into the store.
  3. We reach the cashiers , and one last killer attempt is made to make us buy EVEN MORE. Here, we find small packets of gum or peppermints. The prices seem so small compared to what you’ve already bought, that you’ll think taking one won’t really matter that much.

Having finally reached the check-out though, we’ve been walking through a minefield of mindgames. Here’s some others you may encounter:

Placing products

Products a supermarket wants to sell, will be placed at the eyesight on the shelfs. Big action pack that have relatively low profit, will be placed on the lowest shelfs with the unpopular brands.

Popular products will be placed right at the middle of an aisle. So that, to reach it, we first need to cross the entire aisle with tons of other temptations.

People with kids have even more bad luck coming their way; products that kids tend to like are placed at kids eye-sight. Once the kids see the product and want it, it’s only a matter of time before mom or dad gives in and adds at least one extra product for their kid to their basket.

Colours, smells and sounds


Colours can play with our emotions. A lot of supermarkets will therefore sneak the colours red and yellow into their stores. For instance; red attracts our attention, and makes objects seem closer than they actually are (and lazy as we are, that makes it more easy for us to reach it!). Yellow makes you happy, optimistic and gives you confidence.


How wonderful is the smell of freshly baked bread? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but most of the time that ‘fresh’ smell is just an illusion. Most supermarkets add this smell artificially, to give you a hungry feeling while walking through the store which will eventually make you buy more food.


Supermarkets tend to play music that is very low-pace. Science has actually shown that this gives us a calm feeling and makes us stay in the store longer (also notice the absence of clocks in supermarkets, also meant to not rush you out of the store). This will in turn make us buy more products.

Even more crazy is this: science has also shown that when French music was played as background music in supermarkets, people tended to buy French wines. When German music was played, people tended to buy German wines. Awesome!

So there you have it: supermarketing. Next time you go to a supermarket, start to pay attention to these sneaky mindgames, and you’ll save loads and loads of money! It would be awesome if you guys knew any other psychological tricks supermarkets use! In case you do: don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Or, you know, if you want to use the comment section to cry out a little about all those years you’ve been fooled by supermarkets, that’s ok, too.

By: Kim van der Vliet



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