Misunderstanding Consumerism


It’s been popular for at least a couple of decades to bash consumerism, or at least consumerism in its more extreme forms.

This book I’m currently reading, called Spent, has given me a new perspective on the situation. I think its primary message is that consumerism and marketing are misunderstood.

Rather than being evil creations of greedy businessmen, they are instead just modern takes on the most primitive activity of all—signaling to others what we are about so as to gain an evolutionary advantage.

It’s not that there isn’t evil and greed involved. There are plenty of people who are taking advantage of hidden innate desires in people so that they can make money. But the ultimate cause is not the greed of the marketer or businessman; it’s the undeniable urge for humans to distinguish themselves so as to attract friends and mates.

I find that fascinating. It’s a whole new way to view commercials.

When you look at what they’re saying on the surface, think about what they’re really saying to their target audience. And think about it from an evolution standpoint.

It’s not about what the person hears. It’s about how their subconscious thinks the product will make them appear to others. It’s about branding oneself to attract certain people and repel others. And it’s seldom transparent when not done ironically.

If you’re not reading this book, you should be. It’s proving to be one of the best books I’ve ever read in terms of illuminating human behavior.

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