Smack in the middle of Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”, a book on the fundamental difference between the ego and the rational mind, you’ll find a paragraph that speaks of marketing. I thought it might be interesting to share it with you.
Even you are perfectly aware of what we do as a profession, I find these sentences to be of particular interest, given that we still can lose ourselves from time to time, both as marketers and as consumers.
The advertising specialists of the world know perfectly well that if they hope to sell things that people don’t really need, they must convince them that these items will add something to the way they see themselves or how others perceive them.
In other words, these products will add to their sense of self.
This is what they are doing when they tell you, for example, that you will distinguish yourself from others by using such-and-such product. This implies that you will be a fuller, better version of yourself.
Or these specialists will create an association in your mind between the product and a famous person, a young and attractive person or someone who appears to be happy.
Even images of older or dead celebrities shown in their prime work well.
The unspoken suggested is that, by buying this product and through some magical appropriation, you will become like them, or rather like the image they project.
In many cases, you’re not buying a product so much as an “identity reinforcer”. Upscale brand labels are basically nothing more than collective identities that you “buy”. Because they are expensive purchases, they convey a sense of exclusivity.
If everyone could afford them, they would lose their psychological value. All that would remain would be the product’s material value, which only corresponds to a fraction of the price you paid.
What people identify with varies according to the person, their age, sex, income, social status, fashion, culture… What you identify with is related to content, whereas the unconscious drive for identification relates to structure. This is one of the most basic ways in which the mind functions.
Paradoxically, what keeps the so-called consumer society running strong is the fact that the attempt to find oneself in these products fails each time.
Satisfying the ego is short-lived, so you always crave more.
Therefore, you continue to buy and to consume.
Needless to say, in this physical dimension where the “surface self” lives, these things are necessary and inevitable aspects of our lives. We need a roof over our head, clothing, furniture, tools, means of transportation…
We do sometimes ascribe value to certain items because of their beauty or their intrinsic qualities.
The sense of pride, of distinguishing oneself from other, the apparent reinforcement of self by a “more than” and the apparent weakening of self by a “less than” are neither good nor bad. It’s just the ego talking. And there’s nothing wrong with ego ; it is simply unconscious. When you sense your ego in action, this is when you can begin to overcome it. Don’t take ego too seriously and when you surprise yourself by letting it command certain behavior, just smile. Or even laugh […[
The ego tends to assimilate having with being : I have, therefore I am.
And the more I have, the more I am. The ego thrives on comparisons.
The way that others see you becomes the way you see yourself. In other words, if everyone lived in a castle, you could distinguish yourself by living in a hut.
Without being overly consumerist (which would also be a chosen stance, as you will have understood); it’s nice to be able to go back to basics once in a while and take a critical look at our profession. You might even find yourself wanting to read this book filled with advice on how to live a happier, or at least, a healthier life.