Monthly Archives: June 2014


The Language of Addiction in Advertising & Marketing

Chicago - Essays - Women - Women's Issues

“OMG I’m addicted to this one!”

“I’ve been so addicted to sugar lately.”

“…Riiigggghtttt?? Sooooo addicted!!”

“Definitely addicted to shopping. Totally.”

You many have run across one or more of these phrases in your daily life, whether you catch yourself saying them, thinking them, or you over hear them. This ‘addiction’ especially for women is phrase thrown around when talking about our favorites products, our favorite stores, or favorites items of clothing or accessories– those of us who cannot stop buying shoes or handbags know what I’m referring to.

But should we throw this word around so much? No, we don’t mean to make light of someone with a real addiction. That’s not the point. But what if when we say we’re addicted, that’s exactly what we mean.

For example everyone drinks in college. In America there is a pervasive culture of drinking in college, so much so that when students graduate, the habits continue. All the while they technically qualify as alcoholics. Though most of us grow up and out of this habit ‘alcoholism’ is perhaps more pervasive among college students and young graduates than it should be. I think the same principle applies to addiction. We apply the term so much that on the one hand it begins to lose its meaning. On the other it’s also retaining it. I think of the confirmation emails I get whenever I purchase shoes from DSW. The tracking email quite literally invites me to begin tracking the package obsessively. And most times I do. StitchFix is another example. Though I love this program the language of addiction is built in. a ‘fix’ is something that a drug user needs. My fix. Gotta have it. Magazines, beauty websites, facebook posts, they invite you to be addicted by pointing out that you already are.

Addicted to our new eyeshadow? Win/buy/tweet here to score!

Celebrity X is addicted to our new product! Read/click/check it out here and see why!

Here is another example of the language of addiction being built in. The ‘have to have’ takes consumerism a step further. You are mentally and emotionally incapable of resisting this. So just give in.

While I’m not saying that we should go on a giant no buying strike (we do need an economy) I am saying to sit up and take notice of marketing strategies (aimed almost exclusively at women) that accuse us of something that is technically quite offensive and use this to sell us products that by and large, we do not need. Yes buy the mascara that works for you. Go after those cute heels. Spend on your favorites books and movies. These things make us happy. But how about leaving the culture of the ‘addicted’ ‘addle-brained’ woman behind?

Perhaps it’s human nature to be addicted to something, or more than one thing, and that’s why it is so effective. But if we can stop using the word we can put it back where it belongs, and start to take stock of how we as women want to be perceived and addressed, both by others and in advertising and marketing.