Companies make money by selling us their goods and services. The more they can entice us to spend, the more profits they make. The mechanisms utilized to entice us to spend are advertising and marketing campaigns. Companies have become incredibly good at designing and deploying these devices. They spend billions to perfect and billions more each year to pursue their advertising and marketing strategies.
Psychologist Susan Linn of Harvard Medical School in her book, Consuming Kids, says, “Comparing the marketing of today with the marketing of yesteryear is like comparing a BB gun to a smart bomb; it’s enhanced by technology, honed by child psychologists and brought to us by billions of dollars.”
You need to understand that you have been the target of corporate advertising and marketing since before you were born. It has continued, unabated, every day of your life. You cannot help but be influenced by it. What is important is that you try to be aware of it. You cannot possibly be aware of all of the attempts to influence and control your behavior.
Much of today’s advertising is subliminal. It targets the unconscious parts of your brain that function outside of your awareness.
In a wine study, four French and four German wines, matched for price and dryness, were placed on the shelves of a supermarket in England. French and German music were played on alternate days above the display. On days when the French music played, 77 percent of the wine purchased was French. On days when the German music played, 73 percent of the wine purchased was German. Clearly, the music influenced consumers’ purchases, but when asked whether the music influenced their choices, only one shopper in seven said it had. What is equally important is that you appreciate the influences that advertising and marketing have not only on you, but also on everyone around you.
The culture of consumerism created by these relentlessly targeted campaigns affects all of us to a degree that is difficult to comprehend.
We are all persuaded that we will not be happy unless we have the toys, games, clothes, iPhones, computers, cars, houses, food, and drinks that other people think are cool. What is most disturbing is that this insidious message, which we have grown up with our entire lives, is simply not true.
While money may be able to contribute to your happiness, by allowing you to pay bills or take trips to relieve stress, material possessions can’t bring you true happiness. Yet, many of us believe that they can.
We go through life spending money that we haven’t yet earned to buy things that we don’t really need to impress people that we don’t care about. Why? Because we have been programmed by the millions of advertising and marketing messages we receive over our lifetimes to believe that consumerism is our path to happiness.
What we have all been programmed to believe is simply not reality. It’s a lie. It is a lie that is particularly difficult to recognize when we are young, because when we are young, our responsibilities are at their lowest point in our lives. We don’t have to worry about supporting ourselves, about raising a family, about paying for our children’s education, about rising health care costs or retirement. All of these things seem like distant obligations when we are young. They seemingly don’t apply to us.
During this period of relative irresponsibility, we derive the most joy from our toys, but this doesn’t last. As we get older, we begin to realize that we can’t take our toys with us. We begin to understand that our gadgets won’t pay the rent. They won’t put food on the table. They won’t help us provide for those we love. They won’t allow us to retire and maintain our dignity and independence. They won’t allow us to travel and see the world. Only when we begin to focus on our broader, more long-term needs, do we begin to recognize how truly unimportant our material possessions really are.
Beware of the false promises of consumerism. Think and plan ahead.