From the moment we first gain awareness, we are bombarded by the world. Sensory input assails us from all directions, and our brains tirelessly records and processes the new data. Utilizing sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell our ravenous brain devours every sensation possible, trying to sate its tremendous appetite for information. Intake of knowledge is critical to our very survival. This process is how we learn and discover. As our brain detects patterns, it creates rules helping to explain how the world works. Sometimes, those rules are easy to develop. ‘If I touch a flame, my hand will hurt.’ or ‘If I put ice cream in my mouth, I will feel good. For now at least.’ Other rules are not quite as easy to establish. ‘My purpose in life is … ???’ or ‘to be happy in life I should … ???’
Regardless of inherent difficulty in rule development, our brain still efforts to create order out of the chaos. As useful a tool this might be, like many a tool, it can cause harm as easily as it can help. The effectiveness of any brain is directly related to the quality of the data it receives. When collecting good data, the brain can make the correct assumptions and deliver appropriate commands to the body. If, however, the data is tainted in any way, the brain creates situational expectations based on flaws. In turn, orders received based the skewed information will themselves be less than ideal. This all sounds very obvious, but how many of us stop to think about the information we are feeding our brains.
I know of one group who constantly think about the inputs your brain is receiving. They are employed with the express purpose of feeding your mind with information they want you to know. These people are referred to as ‘marketers.’ They work tirelessly to present sounds, images and words designed to help your brain create expectations about life. “Look,” they say, “at x. Look at all of these people experiencing x. See how happy they are. You mean to tell me you are doing without x. If you want to be happy, if you want a better life, go get you some x.”
(x will be set as a variable defined as the specific product or service the advertisement is geared towards.)
Individually, a vast majority of people employed in the field of marketing are good people. They arrive at work each day with the intention of admirably performing their job and providing for whomever they want to provide. The problem with the marketing situation concerns loyalty. Marketers are more beholden to their employer than the consumer. Marketers are not necessarily concerned about your financial situation, unless it gives them a demographic to target. Marketers are not necessarily concerned with your health, unless it gives them a demographic to target. Marketers are concerned with communicating the qualities of x and inducing a desire to go out and get x.
I know this seems rudimentary, and you might be asking yourself, “So what’s the big deal?” Glad you asked. The problem boils down to expectation. Most of us will see or hear a commercial and blow it off. We know someone is trying to sell us something. But does our subconscious brain really understand. When it ‘sees’ people kissing due to jewelry or enjoying life in a certain car, does it filter the data or does the brain file that away under, ‘Things I Need to be Like the Happy People?’ If we are not consciously aware of the impact on our brain, our expectations of pleasure and success could be subtly changing. Later, when we do not have the car or the jewelry, our expectations are not met and we are left feeling unfulfilled.
Due to the nature of our society, we cannot stop people from showing us x on the television or talking about x on the radio. Nor do we have a right to halt the behavior unless the x in question is illegal or unethical. However, we can be aware of the expectations being created. Valentine’s Day, for example, is fairly obvious. Buy a card, buy jewelry, buy a dinner at a restaurant and your Valentine’s day will be a success. Subtle marketing, where ideas are being implanted without our awareness, change the way we view the world without us being as alert to the suggestion. It is the dresses on the ‘Red Carpet,’ the product being discussed on a television show, or the cigarette being smoked by the hero in a movie that are dangerous.
So today, and going forward, keep this warning in mind. There are those out there who want you to get more x. They do so because it is their job. When you find yourself wanting more x, stop and think about why you have the desire. When you really contemplate the matter, you might find you have plenty of x already. Realize what makes you happy and do not allow others, even fake TV and radio people, to pressure you into x that you might not really want or need.