The Truth About Spiritual-Need Marketing.
This blog is a reprint of one I had written some time ago, but I thought as we entered yet another “shopping season”, that it was appropriate to print it again. The message, at least for me is critical enough.
My friend Jim sent this to me today. If “unknown author” hadn’t been written beneath the quote, I would have sworn he’d said it:
“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall his choice.”
On December 15th, TIME Magazine printed an online article by Amy Sullivan entitled “Christian Group Launches New Attack on Christmas Commercialism.” As soon as I saw the title, I thought, “It’s about time.”
Last year some time a survey was conducted to gauge the religious and spiritual propensities of Americans. No one was surprised by the findings and no one really needed to spend the money on the survey: The vast majority of Americans believe in a Supreme Being or higher power whom they call God.
So what happened? And Christmas is just one example of how distorted our perceptions are. Somewhere we went from a nation devoted to God and freedom to a nation devoted to things and Jessica Simpson, who proudly hailed, “I don’t know what it is, but I totally want it” has become our spokesperson.
We are consumed with our own bodies and the things we acquire but have no idea why we’re here or what to do with ourselves. We have come to believe that meaning and having are equal.
This is a profound and pervasive delusion that is also both simultaneously destructive and systematically distracting. So much so that corporations have put their billions into marketing campaigns that specifically target and capitalize on these delusions.
The delusions are:
1) The product can save me.
2) The product has meaning and therefore can give my life meaning.
3) The product can help me belong to a tribe.
4) The product or service or brand can make me lovable.
Of course, none of the products on the market today and none of the products anyone can possibly conceive of will ever meet the deeper needs of a human being because those deeper needs are for love, belonging, and meaning. Who in their right mind would consciously believe that a pair of shoes or a car or a skin cream could ever do that? Yet, we buy and behave as if we did believe it.
I am not a theologian. I am only a psychotherapist and homeopath in Albuquerque. I write mostly about Verbal First Aid, not Biblical matters. But I think this is idolatry in the purest sense of the word.
I have helped people with anxiety, panic, trauma, sorrow and confusion for over twenty years and in watching their struggles I now believe that God had a good reason for forbidding idolatry–because it is delusional and will never make us happy.
But we keep saying “no” to joy and “yes” to stuff. How does this happen?
By some marketing principles that are universal.
Become the atmosphere: This is a phrase used to describe the infusion of brand recognition into our culture, to surround people with “Sony,” for instance, so that when they think it’s time for a new TV the first thing they’ll think of is that brand. One woman in the documentary, The Persuaders, said “Consumers are like roaches. You spray them and spray them and spray them.”
Create a culture of need: This is market-ese for creating a need in order to produce a product. It can also be done by generating an image that not only creates a pseudo-need, but promises a new way to meet it.
Give products “feeling” and life: By endowing everyday products with emotional energy ( kindness, sexuality, sensuality, friendliness, etc…) that product itself resonates with people’s emotional lives and secret needs.
Create a culture of fear: The media has been promoting viral fear since the Civil War. But it has been expertly cultivated since the Cold War and the build-up on Madison Avenue.
Many of us become so afraid we are willing to put ourselves into irreversible debt to deflect it. And the thing we are most afraid of – not belonging, being shunned, being seen as inferior or unworthy – is precisely that which they are best at manipulating by making the product an extension of the self.
They sell fear because they’re afraid and that’s what they buy. Advertisers can’t stop spreading viral fear because, in one marketer’s words, they’re terrified of being eaten alive by the competition. It doesn’t get more limbic than that, does it?
Sell to the Soul: Marketers use the term “Pseudo-spiritual marketing.” When they sit around a table banging out strategies and campaign slogans, they use expressions like “making a spiritual bond with a product” and “channeling the inner brand.” The brand becomes the church and the product the icon.
Create an IMAGE: This means that campaigns will skillfully and persuasively present the product as more than it is. I drive a Hummer, therefore I am…And I am successful, tough, yet refined. The product is no longer a product but redefined as mystery, as intimacy, as meaning, as cult, as success, as comfort, as our due.
Facilitate Entitlement: It’s the RIGHT of every American to have whatever he wants. So, banks cooperate with manufacturers and retailers to finance loans, no pre-payment options, leases with hidden clauses, no interest deals for three years, no payments for two years.
It’s way too easy to buy things we really don’t need and can’t afford. But if a product is identified with the “self” then not having it becomes emotionally equated with existential death.
This article may be seen in its full edition at http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Objects-of-Our-Devotio-by-Judith-Acosta-091217-229.html