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Why Do You Want What You Want?

in today’s social commentary...

Bred to consume

Have you ever taken the time to think about why you have a certain view, attitude or predisposition towards material items?  Do you know how you came to have these opinions? Are you certain that your thoughts are your own, or do you have the sneaking suspicion that you’ve been conditioned to think a certain way based on what is presented to you on a daily basis?

Advertising, in most basic terms, is psychological in nature – a form of brainwashing. It influences you to purchase a service/product or adopt a certain mindset via  numerous methods. It doesn’t always have to be blatant, such as the television commercials that most people try to avoid by flipping the channel. Other forms of advertising appear in covert forms, such as strategic product placement in films/TV shows, or an actor/actress wearing a certain item of clothing at an event (triggering a subconscious desire within you to “be like them”).

Consider the following:

1. After the release of the film “Blood Diamond” in 2006, people became privy to the horrors of the diamond trade in South Africa. But are you aware of the history of the diamond trade prior to limbs getting chopped off? De Beers spent millions on advertising throughout the 1900’s to brainwash people into thinking that: a) diamonds are a girl’s best friend; b) a man ought to spend at least 2 months’ salary on a diamond; c) that a diamond represented love. The company got famous actresses and the British royalty to begin wearing diamonds. The plan worked exceptionally well, and to this day, the diamond is the primary rock of choice of the masses to represent love and status.

2. In the excellent documentary “The Century of the Self”, Adam Curtis explains how getting women to smoke was a trend that was carefully engineered. The head of The American Tobacco Corporation asked Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and dubbed “father of  public relations”, if there was a way to break the taboo on women smoking in public.  Bernays met with a psychoanalyst who explained that the cigarette was “a symbol of the penis and male sexual power”.  By finding a way to challenge that power, it would get women to smoke because “women would have their own penises”. The crafty Bernays then staged an event where some women would light up cigarettes at the annual Easter Day parade in New York City, and then alerted the media that some suffragettes would be smoking in protest, their cigarettes representing “Torches of Freedom”. The ploy was a raging success. Cigarette sales skyrocketed, and the public was none the wiser!

The individuals who have a deep understanding of how the human mind operates profit handsomely as a result of advertising.  Influenced thoughts lead to desires, which eventually lead to sales of a particular product or service.

The next time you find yourself adding an item to your mental wish list, pause for a moment to ask yourself, “Why do I REALLY want this?”

  • I am acutely aware of the tricks advertisers use. I automatically shut those cues down. When I see celebrities wearing clothes or carrying handbags or the other types of subliminal triggers that make products look like “must haves”, I have an aversion response. I feel I’m only making the rich, richer instead of enriching my own life, I prefer to buy oils from the body shop & make my own fragrance instead of smelling, like what some celebs suggest.
    But alas, I am surrounded by family members who refer to me as cheap, and some that don’t step out the door unless everything they have screams some designer’s name, some even opining they feel “less than” if they aren’t using certain products. I hope people pay attention to what you wrote and break the cycle of subliminal influences.

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