Do Marketers Condition Us to Buy More Junk Food?

Marketing and advertising are two fundamental elements of the modern world that impact its evolution and shape people’s behavior. The high potency of these tools can be associated with the fast speed of technologies’ development and their integration with every sphere of human activity. This statement is especially topical for the young generation that traditionally has been taken as the primary driver of change. Being open to new experiences and looking for communication, representatives of this cohort extensively use social media such as Facebook or Twitter to share emotions, search for information, and discuss various events in their lives. However, marketers also correctly realize the power of this platform and use it as a tool to promote their products by adding advertisements and creating interest groups to attract clients. For this reason, social media, commerce, and advertising are the three principal aspects that impact the behaviors of young people and preconditioning their choices.

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Junk food also becomes a part of the popular culture that dominates contemporary society. Social networks, media, and multiple mobile applications supported and monitored by marketers shape individuals’ food habits by popularizing fast food, emphasizing its fashionable character, and creating the feeling of belonging to a specific elite and idealized images of promoted products. Additionally, cheap offers, peer pressure, and omnipresent advertising condition people to buy junk food, not even thinking about its qualities or effect on their bodies.

Idealized Media Images

Idealized media images are among the most powerful methods that marketers use to create a positive attitude to a particular product and attract people to junk food for them to buy it. It means that the majority of pictures individuals see on the Internet are far from reality, but they should be associated with some positive experiences or feelings. Gaber and Wright (2014) state that the creation of such concepts is a complex and challenging task that demands the participation of a group of specialists and precondition the overall success of the promoted product. For this reason, both the visual appearance and background of any product are given significant attention to affect potential buyers in different ways. In the majority of cases, beautiful visualization of a product is combined with its belonging to a unique cultural layer to create an idealized media image.

The final result that is found in social networks or websites becomes beautiful to people who start to form positive associations between the idealized image and the product itself. For example, fast food restaurants emphasize a specific subculture of young, energetic, and fashionable young people who consume good-looking junk food and are happy (Gaber & Wright, 2014). In such a way, this concept works to shape buyers’ behavior and impact their final decision-making regarding the purchase of a product. With the empowerment of the Internet and social networks, this approach becomes even more powerful.

However, one point of view against this argument states that social media and idealized images do not exert pressure on users; they just show the existing options and contribute to the diversity of existing offerings in the market. As far as these platforms’ further empowerment is inevitable, the appearance of such advertising is a part of the evolution process and should not be considered attempts to alter clients’ perspectives (Gaber & Wright, 2014). Nevertheless, the use of aggressive forms of advertising and efforts to cultivate idealized images in people’s minds evidence the idea that social media are used to make people buy more junk food.

Cheat Deals and Offers

Cheap deals and offers appeal to traditionally strong individuals’ desire to save costs and benefit from a particular activity. The use of this approach by marketers rests on behavior psychology and factors that impact decision-making. According to Camacho (2016), customers might buy even unnecessary things that initially were not included in the shopping list if they are informed about the existence of unique offerings or cheap deals that would help them to save some costs. As a result, they remain deceived by advertisers because instead of economizing, they spend money on items that are not needed for them at the moment. The effectiveness of this method is also evidenced by the fact that sell-outs and special prices attract many people who want to take a chance and benefit from this action.

The desire to economize that underpins cheap deals and offers is a potent stimulus that is employed by marketers to promote junk food consumption. One of the powerful advertising strategies that are used today is the creation of a seeming profit that would be attractive for individuals. Impacted by the idealized image formed by media, a person might still have hesitations about the purchase because of the price, but a particular offering or a discounted price becomes another factor that impacts decision making and conditions a client to buy more junk food (Camacho, 2016). There are multiple examples that prove this statement as the majority of fast-food restaurants suggest two products for the price of one or additional items that can be acquired if to buy a particular good (Thaichon, 2016). This approach becomes extremely powerful regarding the existence of idealized images and popular culture, promoting the consumption of junk food.

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There is also an opposite opinion regarding the strategy of cheap deals and offers. It presupposes that specific offerings and cheap deals really help people to economize and generate benefits (Gaber & Wright, 2014). Customers are already impacted by mass media and a distinct culture that promotes a particular lifestyle and products that are a part of it. It means that they are ready to buy junk food regardless of the price or effects on their health. From this perspective, cheap deals just help to save costs and improve the image of the brand by demonstrating attention to the basic needs of the target audience and the desire to satisfy their demands.

Thus, one cannot deny the fact that the use of financial pressure by marketers becomes a potent tool that creates the ground for the increased consumption of junk food by all populations, especially young people who do not have much money and welcome options providing them with an opportunity to economize. In such a way, the adherence to this practice helps to introduce another factor facilitating the further evolution of idealized images of fast food and the culture of its consumption. For this reason, social media and other platforms contain multiple advertisings about the upcoming discounts or unique offerings available during a short period of time.

Peer Pressure

Social networks and popular culture are also used by marketers to exert peer pressure and directly influence individuals to follow their friends in shifting their priorities or changing attitudes to junk food or buying behaviors. The fact is that this sort of network presupposes the involvement of multiple individuals united in various communities or groups resting on similar interests, lifestyles, cultures, or relations (Gaber & Wright, 2014). These units are characterized by the active interaction between all members, experience sharing, discussions, and provision of pieces of advice about various activities, including shopping. Correctly recognizing the ability of these communities to affect individuals and make them follow specific patterns, advertisers try to interfere with their functioning and promote tendencies needed for them to sell particular products. The same idea is used to form a culture that will work as a tool to press individuals. Under these conditions, a person who avoids buying junk food can be criticized because of this behavior by peers or feel isolated.

Peer pressure is also used as a method to support the idealized image that is created by media and affect social groups that might belong to the target audience. Young people again become the most vulnerable cohort because of their need for approval from members of the same group, feeling of belonging, and tendency towards more active communication with other individuals. In such a way, the majority of advertising campaigns created by junk food producers focus on the introduction of shifts in groups’ behavior and thinking to ensure that peer pressure will help them to form appropriate responses in individuals and make them buy desired products.

There is also another perspective on peer pressure and its role in the promotion of various products. In accordance with surveys, modern youth demonstrates a comparatively high level of independence in decision-making and their behaviors (Thaichon, 2016). It means that various kinds of pressure exerted by multiple groups are not so influential in shaping their responses. Moreover, there is a tendency to differentiate from the group and attract attention by unusual requirements, tastes, and behaviors (Thaichon, 2016). That is why people can resist this sort of pressure, and their choices are preconditioned by their own interests and decisions resting on various considerations.

However, regardless of the existence of various opinions on the given phenomenon, the power of peer pressure cannot be ignored if to speak about junk food promotion as it remains in the pool of strategies used by marketers. The utilization of such valuable tools as social networks and media helps to shape the mentalities of groups and ensure people that there are some socially accepted behaviors or patterns that should be followed.


Altogether, marketing and advertising are two fundamental elements of the modern world that are used to shape people’s behavior and make them buy desired products. Marketers form idealized media images to create positive attitudes to junk food and make clients buy it. Moreover, cheap deals and offers are utilized to appeal to people’s desire to save costs and generate benefits. Finally, there is also peer pressure from members of various groups or communities that impact decision-making and precondition particular choices. Regardless of the existence of some opposite opinions of this situation, there is clear evidence that advertising, social networks, and media are used by brands to affect customers by introducing changes in their buying behaviors and ensure the stable high level of interest in their products as it is the basis for the future development and evolution.

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Camacho, J. (2016). Five powerful social media practices from the fast-food industry. Web.

Gaber, H., & Wright, L. (2014). Fast-food advertising in social media. A case study on Facebook in Egypt. Journal of Business and Retail Management Research, 9(1), 52-63.

Thaichon, P. (2016). Fast food companies use social networking sites to target children. Web.

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