Have you noticed the “you deserve it” phenomenon in advertising lately? It is everywhere. You deserve a good night’s sleep. You deserve a beautiful smile. You deserve to go on vacation. You deserve a

Apparently it’s not a new strategy for advertisers, judging by the above MacDonald’s advertisement. It’s been around for years, but why has it suddenly become so prevalent? It drives me bonkers for several reasons. The first reason is that whether or not I deserve something doesn’t factor into my mental processing when deciding to buy something. I’m going to use the advertisement below as an example.OrthodonticSpecialists-ad

If I were thinking about getting braces my thought process would work like this: “Ugg I have unattractive teeth. Are they so bad people notice them or am I just being self-conscious? Am I so uncomfortable with my teeth that it is worth it to spend $3,000 to get them fixed?” This is the question I always ask myself, is this product worth the price? Am I perturbed or uncomfortable enough with whatever problem this product will fix to throw that specific amount of money at it? It is a question of value, and value is very personal. If I believe a beautiful smile will provide a $3000 or more return in my confidence, self worth and how I show myself to the world then it has enough value for me to buy it. I use a cost/value analysis strategy to make purchases and whether or not I deserve something doesn’t factor into the decision. I think along these lines even when buying something small. I have never thought, “I deserve that candy bar”, instead I think “Do I want that candy bar more than I want the $1 it’ll cost” (the answer is usually that I want the candy bar more than the money). Deserve has too much emotional connotation to be included in a discussion about how to spend our money. We work hard for our money and I don’t want to spend it based on emotion. I want to make sound, logical choices with our money.

Secondly, I get so frustrated when I see advertisements trying to make me believe I deserve something. Lots of people deserve a lot of things. Starving people don’t deserve to starve; people dying of curable disease don’t deserve to die; children don’t deserve to be born into families who won’t love them; returning soldiers deserve a hero’s welcome home. Those are things I associate with the word deserve not straight teeth, expensive mattresses and hamburgers. People deserve basic human rights, not vacations and teeth whitening. A vacation is a want and it is perfectly fine and normal to want things but let’s not agree to disguise wants as something all humans need to make us feel valued. Deserve is such a loaded word and I have such a strong gut reaction it, especially when it is used to make a want into a need.

Thirdly, the word “deserve” usually serves as justification for doing something you want to do, not a reason behind doing it. I wish people would use facts to justify things they want. Like “I value the time with my family that comes from a vacation and it is worth the cost for me” instead of “I have been working really hard so I deserve a vacation”. If a person believes in the value of whatever they are buying they don’t need to justify it by deserving it.

Deserve is a tricky, tricky word. It is an emotionally loaded word. When advertisers tell you “You deserve it” they are triggering an emotional response that stems from pride and the need to be valued. The emotional response to the word “deserve” completely bypasses any logical analysis of whether we can afford or even want the advertised product. All humans have intrinsic value. But don’t let advertisers force you to believe that buying things will prove you are valuable. The word “deserve” makes it ok to spend more than you have.  By using “deserve” to justify things we can’t really afford we are ruining our ability to make future decisions independently of the past. We deserve to not be held hostage in the future because we made decisions based on one emotionally loaded word.

Do you have any internal response to advertisers declaring “you deserve it”?


  1. love what you’re saying here, andee! i believe this is one of those #firstworldproblems that they kids talk about. do people in third world countries think about breakfast or lunch or dinner as something they “deserve”? or do they just focus on the what they need to do to make breakfast or lunch or dinner happen in real life?

  2. You DESERVE a round of applause! Great post!

    It’s this kind of attitude that will get your house paid off. When I hear or start to think about these “deserve” scenarios, I get mad! I get furious, that we/I think this way.

    It’s far more important to do the right things with the money we have vs. feed an empty wanting in our lifestyle.

    I remember when this changed for me. It was when we started attacking our debt. It became the reverse of what I was doing before. I would get that “good” feeling by paying off debt vs. buying something I wanted.

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