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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

During his sermon on Sunday, my pastor asked: Are we consumed with consuming? If our major corporations have their way, the answer would always be yes.

In a new book, recently excerpted in the New York Times Magazine, reporter Charles Duhigg catalogs the extraordinary lengths that retailers like Target (see video) work not only to build, but to control, our habits of consumption — and to make our consumption habitual. As one researcher from Target told Duhigg:  

Just wait. We’ll be sending you coupons for things you want before you even know you want them.

The scope of modern marketing, fueled by research in neurology and psychology, is far different from the advertising of the past. It allows us to hold on to the illusion that we can resist even as we are directed, and even manipulated, to buy and buy again.

So it is no small thing when my pastor asked us to consider changing our shopping and consumption habits. We are working not just against our own tendencies; we are working against a relentless culture of marketing that aims with precision at our tendencies and vulnerabilities. That’s why it can feel so difficult to change.

Yet, by God’s grace, we are not helpless. This is why we can think of frugality as more than just a virtuous trait. It is a spiritual discipline, an act — no, a habit — of resistance against one of the powers and principalities of our day.

Note: A version of this post also appeared at my church’s blog.

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Yes, what if universities marketed themselves like Old Spice? This parody, which I first saw at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, is the answer.

Sometimes, you just need to laugh.

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My wife received this mailer from Target yesterday, and I took a quick look through its slick 20-page guide to see what qualifies as “College Essentials.” After all, my daughter is just three years away from college.

If you purchased every “essential” in this catalog, you’d need to rent a truck to transport it all to school. Then you’d have no space for a roommate at your dorm. No doubt that university life has changed since I was in school, and in many ways for the better, but this is an exercise in branded conspicuous consumption — even if it is Target. 

There was a time when college students — if not their parents — were not the target of “back-to-school” marketing. But in the relentless quest for new markets and invented demand, we now have the commodified college student. Because this is an ad aimed at parents, in no small part it plays to parents’ assumptions of how their child’s college life. Perhaps it also plays off a nostalgia of sorts: “Wish I had this stuff when I was in school.” 

I suppose this mailer also aims at high-school seniors’ perceptions of what college students should look like and how they should live. The students I see on campus certainly don’t look like the fresh-scrubbed models in this mailer; even the students I know who work as models don’t look like these models.

It’s not that there isn’t useful stuff here — aside from the flat-screen TVs, Playstations and Wii systems. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, what hits me is the way this mailer reminds me of the relentless reach of advertising into every corner of our lives — and our children’s lives.

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