I was thinking about marketing this week while I was on a trip, and two things occurred to me that I find distasteful about the discipline. I’m not claiming all marketing is like this, but I’d call it a majority, certainly.
Marketing is often about lying. A lot of marketing is simply overstating your product and positioning it in a space or claiming that it fills a need that it does not in fact fill, or can only be considered appropriate at the very edges of imagination. Call it “marketing by wishful thinking." We hope that you’re buying this overpriced thing because you have disposable income and are making a prudent fiscal choice, but we’re quite sure that 99% of the time, it’s a huge mistake for anyone. And, of course, Super Sugar Smacks can be part of a well-balanced breakfast, but they hardy ever are.
Marketing is often about making people feel badly about themselves. We sell things by filling a need, and when that need doesn’t exist, marketing creates that need by making people feel badly about their current situation. Hell, pretty much every women’s fashion magazine is predicated on this entire idea – page after page of people prettier than you are. We know you thought you looked fine, but after closing this magazine, we’re hoping you feel like a troll and go out and buy our makeup. And sure, your car is practical and reliable, but it sucks compared to this new thing, so come out and spend more than you can afford to make yourself feel better.
I absolutely concede that marketing doesn’t have to be this way, and my hats are off to companies that avoid these two traps. But it’s rare, and society is worse for it.