I have always been a “brand loyal” consumer. Call me a snob, but I just do not buy generic or other brands just to save a few pennies. Despite what people think, you CAN taste a difference between Wonder bread and Butternut bread. The reason I can taste the difference may be a part of my Sensory Processing Disorder, I am not sure. With that being said, I would like to add that my children can tell a difference in bottled water. Water! A virtually tasteless beverage and they can tell if I buy a different brand, so there must be some truth to my statement. Lately, many commercials have caused me to rethink my brand loyalty and opt to buy substandard products because of their commercials.
I suffer from Misophonia, a debilitating audio processing condition which causes an immediate fight or flight response. Sufferers can be triggered by many different sounds; some more common triggers are mouth sounds, including (but not limited to) eating sounds, snapping, clicking, tapping, whistling, etc. In this article, I will be addressing just a couple of specific trigger sounds that seem to be quite prevalent in commercials. People with Misophonia can become irate, enraged, or even panicked when they hear their trigger sounds. Sometimes the sounds cause physical pain. Levels of the Misophonia reaction can vary greatly and can be quite extreme.
An Advertiser’s responsibility is to market the sale of a product or service. Their main goal is to create commercials which are attention-grabbing and memorable. However, lately, many marketing techniques that advertisers are using to gain attention are alienating consumers with sensory issues and may actually be driving customers away.
Duracell, a very popular brand of battery has released a commercial which shows a woman on a flight with noise-canceling headphones needing new batteries and a kid shoving chips in his mouth, aggressively chewing with his mouth open. If you suffer from Misophonia, you know the commercial I am talking about as it has been a huge topic of venting in support groups. Many Misophonia sufferers took the time to reach out to Duracell and voice their complaint/concerns with this commercial. I personally sent an email to their marketing department explaining the condition, and I included several of the comments from other sufferers from an online Misophonia support Group. Unfortunately, this commercial is still on the air and many of us have boycotted Duracell batteries. My brand loyalty has gone out the window. I would prefer to buy any other brand of battery even if they require more frequent replacement because of this commercial. The company does acknowledge the need for the noise-canceling headphones but with the way that their message is executed does not show a true understanding of why they are needed.
Colgate toothpaste: their commercial begins with an actor sitting in a movie theater chomping on ice. Are you kidding me? There isn’t even any warning to give viewers a chance to hit the mute button? The very first shot is the insufferable sound of ice crunching? The only thought that comes to my mind is that I hope Luke Wilson busts his teeth out crunching the ice and that I will never be buying Colgate toothpaste again!
Snyder’s Pretzels has a commercial depicting a conference call and one of the idiots on the call is crunching on pretzels without any consideration for everyone else on the phone. WHY?? What is the purpose of that? You can simply advertise that the pretzels are crunchy, we do not need to HEAR the crunch, believe me! The same applies to the many other chip/snack companies. Is it so difficult to omit the poorly mannered people masticating handfuls of chips or talking with food in their mouth? Triggers aside, this behavior is offensive! What a wonderful lesson for our children!
Let’s take a moment to talk about whistling. What the bloody hell is the purpose of someone whistling in a damn commercial? That is definitely another sound that sends most of us into an instant rage. Truth be told, I have been known to throw the remote control across the room when someone starts to whistle on the TV! Whistling is very irritating to people who do not have aversions to sound. Isn’t there a more creative way to get consumers’ attention?
Allow me to be perfectly clear, it is unrealistic to expect companies to create their promotions around Misophonia sufferers and that is not what we are asking them to do. However, there is truly no valid reason to blatantly emphasize crunching sounds or whistling or any other sounds that may assault our nervous system. Advertisers should be to be a little more sensitive to people with sensory processing deficiencies when creating commercials. The sounds of the person crunching chips not only contain audio triggers but visual triggers as well. This results in a very adverse reaction within the sufferer that goes far beyond annoyance. It causes both physical and emotional pain that does not easily recede. This request is not just for Misophonia sufferers but includes anyone who suffers from a sensory processing disorder as well as autism.
By using these intolerable tactics, you are achieving your goal of attention grabbing, you are leaving an impression on consumers of your product, but it is certainly not a positive one. I will continue to boycott products who use offensive approaches to grab my attention in their campaigns and will encourage my fellow sufferers to do the same (if they haven’t already).Want to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.