Wanted to take a few minutes to work out in writing something that has bugged me about our society for a long time. The subject? The notion that every single thing in life has to have a new version, new features, constant updates, and flashy bling. We’ve worked ourselves into a hole by letting advertising and marketing rule our lives to far too great an extent.
Take a look sometime at the soap and shampoo aisles in the grocery store. Tell me that it is BETTER now that there’s no such thing – for instance – as just shampoo or conditioner. Even the simple, more generic brands come in fifty shades of bleah. It’s shampoo people. Phones…how many features do they need? Shoes, shaving cream, bread (really, we have to break it down by grain, and how many calories are in each unhealthy slice?)
Here’s what happened, I think. We had a simple industrial society, making good things, and then, making them better. Then we started hiring advertisers and spending unholy amounts of money on campaigns to sell. We found ourselves in direct competition with the guy across the street with one more feature than we had, or a flavor we didn’t think of, or a burger bigger than ours…and we dumped MORE money into marketing and advertising, less into actually caring about whether we had the better product, and the war was on.
Here’s a clue for everyone out there. If your insurance agency spends more money on commercials than ANY OTHER INSURANCE AGENCY … they are NOT going to be cheaper. If your car is the most advertised model in the universe, it doesn’t mean it’s better, it means it’s overpriced to pay for all of that advertising.
Another clue…every show on TV is not MUST SEE, and regardless of what they tell you, the critics don’t love it before it’s even aired – at least not to the point they are ready to proclaim it the next best thing and mean it. They are paid.
We are a country filled to the brim with ingenuity, but most of it is buried in the idea that we have to compete with the advertising budget of the Joneses to sell..I hope that’s not true.
This phenomenon branches out into other areas too. Look at TV shows that jump the shark. If every year when sweeps comes around your heroes have to save the universe, or the big bad has to be bigger and badder, you are on a collision course with either becoming ludicrous and hated, or ending your show. If you have a formula that works, and is loved, don’t botch it up by trying to be the most popular thing for one week. The X-Files was famous for this, as was Buffy – hell, they even said on Buffy one time (I believe it was Spike) “Where are you going?” “To save the world….AGAIN!”
Time to take a glance inward I think. I’d trim off some of those desperate marketing and advertising dollars, staffs, and campaigns and shoot for being the better product. In the long run, it works. Change is not always good…if you don’t believe that, think back to “New Coke”. People want what they like, not what you think you can convince them to like…and if you have something they like, don’t stop making it in the hope of a big “score” because big scores are always buried in the overall steady “win” of quality. Always.