Sunday, January 21, 2007

Consumerism Wars Against Missional Living

Do you remember that classic television show “The Jefferson’s”? It was a show in the 70’s that symbolized the idea that we all need to be working to get ahead in this world. The theme song said:

Well we're movin on up, To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don't fry in the kitchen;
Beans don't burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin'
Just to get up that hill.
Now we're up in teh big leagues
Gettin' our turn at bat………..
We’re movin on up.

You see the world wants you to believe it is all about getting ahead and getting all you can. There is a level of selfishness in this attitude and we have already talked about that, but we must also understand that the executives on Madison Avenue, the marketing capital of the world, know all about our tendency to have happy feet and want to “move on up.”

Recently an episode of “Frontline” on PBS was aired that discussed this in detail. The episode name “The Persauders” and featured commentary from leading marketing experts. The following is an excerpt from the transcript of that program. As you read it, think in terms of yourself as a believer, how have you been caught up in these marketing ploys.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Not so long ago, the high-concept ads of today were all but unthinkable.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Ads laid claim to real, tangible differences between one product and another.

KEVIN ROBERTS, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide: What were brands? They were based on what I call "er" words: whiter, brighter, cleaner, stronger.

KEVIN ROBERTS: Watch any commercials on American TV and you'll see these words up in the first three seconds hammered remorselessly into your brain.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: But at some point, these words ceased to have meaning. We no longer believed that one product was any brighter or cleaner than any other.

KEVIN ROBERTS: Everything works now. You know, French Fries taste crisp. Coffee's hot. You know, beer tastes good, unless you live in America and then, you know, you've got to live with what you get. But all these things now are table stakes.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: By the early 1990s, a new approach to marketing came to the fore, one that leapt right over what the product did to what the product meant.

NAOMI KLEIN, Author, No Logo: These were the super-brands, like Nike, Starbucks, the Body Shop. And what they noticed these brands had in common was that they were engaging in a kind of a sort of pseudo-spiritual marketing. So Nike said that they were about the meaning of sports, but more than that, that they were about transcendence through sports. Starbucks said that they were about the idea of community, of place, that is, a third place that is not home, not work. Benetton was, of course, selling multi-culturalism, racial diversity.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: This lesson – that a brand could forge an emotional, even spiritual bond with today's cynical consumer – wasn't lost on corporate America.

NAOMI KLEIN: This wave of corporate epiphanies in the mid-'90s, where all these companies, you know, were told, "You know, what your problem is, is you don't have a big idea behind your brand." So they would hire high-priced consultants, and they would have these kind of corporate sweat lodges and gather around the campfire and sort of try to channel their inner brand meaning. And they would emerge from these processes sort of flushed and say, you know, "Polaroid isn't a camera, it's a social lubricant."

DOUGLAS ATKIN, Merkley and Partners Advertising: When I was a brand manager at Proctor & Gamble, my job was basically to make sure the product was good, develop new advertising copy, design the pack. Now a brand manager has an entirely different kind of responsibility. In fact, they have more responsibility. Their job now is to create and maintain a whole meaning system for people, through which they get identity and understanding of the world. Their job now is to be a community leader.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Ad strategist Douglas Atkin, an expert on the relationship between consumers and brands, says he had a eureka moment one night during a focus group.

DOUGLAS ATKIN: I was in a research facility watching eight people rhapsodize about a sneaker. And I thought, "Where is this coming from? This is, at the end of the day, a piece of footwear." But the terms they were using were evangelical. So I thought, if these people are expressing cult-like devotion, then why not study cults? Why not study the original? Find out why people join cults and apply that knowledge to brands.

FALUN GONG MEMBER: I'm loyal to this practice because it's done so much for me.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: If Atkin could find what pushed a person from mere fan to devoted disciple, perhaps he could market that knowledge.

WRESTLING FAN: Most of the people I discuss the WWF with know that it's not a sport, you know, it's a masculine ballet.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: So he compared dozens of groups he considered cults with so called "cult brands," from Hare Krishna to Harley Davidson–

VW BEETLE OWNER: If you're smart and kind of individual, that's what you drive.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: –from Falun Gong to Mac.

MACINTOSH USER: I think there's something about Mac users. Like, they get it.

DEADHEAD: We just had discovered something.

LINUX USER: They realized there are other people like them, and they cooperate on certain projects, and it's part of belonging to the tribe.

DOUGLAS ATKIN: And the conclusion was this, is that people, whether they're joining a cult or joining a brand, do so for exactly the same reasons. They need to belong, and they want to make meaning. We need to figure out what the world is all about, and we need the company of others. It's simply that.

Saturn is a really good example. It's a mass cult brand. For example, 45,000 people turned up to spend their holiday vacation time at the factory in Tennessee instead of going to Disney World or the Grand Canyon. Now, why would they do that? It's because they wanted to meet other people who own Saturns. They wanted to meet the rest of the Saturn family. They wanted to meet the people who made the car. The people who made the car wanted to meet them. And the people who ran the Saturn business knew that.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: They not only knew it, they turned it into an ad, which only brought more people into the "Saturn family."
[television commercial] We called it the Saturn homecoming. They could see where the idea for a new kind of car company had taken shape, and we could thank them for believing we could do it.

DOUGLAS ATKIN: They created a great meaning system for Saturn in those fantastic commercials. Their meaning system was based on old-time values of community. It was a kind of an icon that America yearned for but couldn't find anymore.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: And that's the object of emotional branding: to fill the empty places where non-commercial institutions, like schools and churches, might once have done the job. Brands become more than just a mark of quality, they become an invitation to a longed-for lifestyle, a ready-made identity.

Did you catch that last sentence? The one in italics? Go ahead and read it again. I’ll wait. The marketing world is trying to fill our spiritual voids with…………well, stuff actually. Nikes, ipods, VW bugs, hot tubs and everything else you can imagine. Marketers understand the spiritual void that exists deep with-in each of us. They know if they can connect with you on a deeper level with their product, they will sell it to you and make you a part of their community. Remember this aspect called community later in on in the book when we look at that specifically.

The lure of the things of this world becomes greater all the time. Today’s advertising bombards us with things to give us “happy feet” and send us scampering up the ladder of worldly success. But we must remain focused on the fact that, all the stuff of this world can not fill the void with in. The only thing capable of doing that is Jesus Christ and He can not do that unless we protect that void from the stuff of the world.

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AS said...

I can see the point. Here in Germany we live next to the Mercedes/Smart companies in Stuttgart. Smart is a bit like Saturn, although they don't have holidays in the Böblingen factory. A friend did an internship and showed me some of the adverts they ran. They were all in English, and all made with a handheld camera, and almost all based on an idea of "Belonging" As if buying the car would make you part of a group that would, in turn, give you an identity or at least a place to belong. I wonder if part of this Spiritual void is connected with a need for community. As to consumerism and adverts, found the simplest way to avoid them was not to have a TV...

sushil yadav said...

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.





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jdluntjr said...

It's one thing to be able to not wrestle against flesh and blood when you believe they really don't know what they're doing. But this article makes it clear they know exactly what they're doing.

The more I read, the greater my commitment to not be cool and to not give in to the whole consumerism thing. I have to find ways to live more simply.

Jana said...

e: Consumerism Wars against Mission Living

I am a Falun Gong Practitioner and you could never sell or market what we have learned. Falun Gong teachings wake you up out of dream and illusion of life and you are then able to see whats important.

"Life is like a dream until death when you awake - why worry about gain and loss"

The only thing you can take with you is your virtue and your karma.

As an everyday person its best to accrue virtue so you can come back
with better enlightenment qualities so you can cultivate to leave these realms finally and return to your true origin where there is no suffering.

If you are accrue more karma than virtue then you will come back in a worse position and suffer even more. Then its very hard to break out of the cycle.

As Falun Gong Practitioners we strive to become better people in everyday society. This is difficult to do, so when we succeed at it we accrue much virtue. That’s why we are so devoted to the practice, because we see feel and acknowledge the benefits of practice mmediately .