A reflection on how my formative education, religion, and socialization have impacted on the decisions that I make and how my behaviour has been socialized by marketing/products.
Since we are children our behaviour is driven by what we see consciously and unconsciously. Our family, education and religion play an important role on who we become as we grow older. “The individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe” (Goffman 1959). Our desire to belong to a group is a factor that has mould us –among others- according to the trend, to the moment. Due of these influences, we are not ourselves, we are just a collection of others.
Plato (Plato 380 BC) suggests in its Cave Analogy, that we can believe our reality is the supreme reality, that there is no more than those “shadows” on the wall, but, in the moment we are freed from our own chains we can see and experience reality in its most pure expression. My reality, with all its influences, has contributed to the person I am now; even though my reality can or cannot be a truthful one, at the end of the day we all have our own chains.
I was born in a family with strong values and spiritual beliefs. Nevertheless, all these principles and beliefs that we, as a family were supposed to follow with rigidity were broken by my father. That experience put an end to a false credence led by him; that specific moment in my life thoroughly changed my reality. I developed my own values and beliefs based on an honest view of who I really am and who I want to be. I decided to collect the best of him and what he taught me, and mould it into my own personality.
As a result of my experiences, I always tend to go against the trend, silently and internally, I make myself aware of who I am by not being others. “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself” (Nietzsche 2003). Of course, it is easier just to go with the stream and have that sense of fitting in, the illusion, but, when we are alone, with nothing else than our own thoughts, we rest the mask on the nightstand. We recognize ourselves as deceivers.
My education, religion and experiences have made me who I am, but what really influences me, is society as a whole. I was born in Venezuela, in in the midst of a consumerist frenzy and it was normal to buy three (3) or more pieces of the same item if it had a low price. I was born in that environment of always having more even though you needed not the product. That was the culture.
As I grew older I travelled to Europe several times and these experiences opened my mind to an entirely different view of life. What was normal for me and my compatriots was abnormal in these places, and to my surprise they were correct. Their purchasing behaviour was strictly focused on their real need of a specific product, nothing more and nothing less. Of course, Venezuela has always been a rich country (not anymore, though)that has not suffered wars or hunger, therefore its society is based on a culture of more.
When I came back to my home country I realized how lucky we were as well as how wrong; I decided to, despite my culture and my reality, to change my purchasing behaviour towards an honest one. However, (Kotler 1971) suggests that consumerism is inevitable; that it always has its season and that it will always be profitable.
Nowadays society has been driven into a consumerist and all-the-same attitude because of the influence of marketing; globalisation can be taken as contributor factor as well. It is no longer about the actual need of a product, is about the need to have it because everybody does. Marketing is all about our behaviour, how we think and what do we want; finding out the current trend in society makes it easier –for marketers- to introduce a product, to reach us, because they already know where to aim.
If this current situation is analysed in retrospective, we live in a constant marketing campaign where products are presented to us in the most attractive and appealing ways and of course our culture, subculture, personality and society are aspects that help marketing to really touch us.
I have realized that I tend to fill some of my emptiness with specific products, like smartphones and clothes; but I have also realised that this behaviour of mine was not like this before. It is something new. I want to feel that I belong to a group and most important, that I am accepted in it; I fight this need but most of the time it overcomes me and I surrender. I know that marketing plays an important role on me. That some advertisements, in some way, get into my deepest self, hence it has added to myself new desires and feelings.
The more I try to not be the same as others, the more I am, because in this unceasing race there is no end, there are only stereotypes to fill or masks to wear.
Marketing is changing our behaviour little by little, how we perceive things is not the same as it used to be a few years ago. “We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing” (R. Laing 1967). We have no time to reflect on ourselves, no time to take decisions because all of them have been taken already and we are just walking the path that we are supposed to walk.
I have learnt that before buying a product I have to reflect on my desire and my need in order to honestly know whether I need it as a work tool or as a social tool; an example for this comes again with technology gadgets. If we ask in our houses or work places which phone do they have, the majority will say either IPhone or Samsung, and that is a perfect example of how marketing has socialized our behaviour. Starting with small things, like gadgets, things and for home, these are growing and expanding in an exponential way. Now the change is in the way we live, what we say, what we do and what we do not do, our holidays, our clothes.
We live to please marketing campaigns and, of course, to increase profits and whilst we do this we believe our decisions are ours, from our deepest being but unconsciously these decisions have been introduced in our minds, maybe we know it, sometimes, but we cheat ourselves.
“Humans being seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth” (R. Laing, 1967)
Now that marketing is all around us we have accepted it as a part of us. We brand ourselves, we sell our image and we strategically share what we want for people to know of us. As we do it, companies does the same with the products they offer.
Marketing has not only influenced my behaviour in society, my individual self and ‘my decisions’, marketing has taught me, unconsciously, through its psychology that I am a product, that I am in the need to sell my best image and that I belong to a bigger picture. That the more I try to be different the more I get closer to this big mass of equals. It seems like a lost battle from my point of view, but it may be a season, like Kotler said decades ago regarding consumerism.
All of this leads me to Goffman again, to the knowledge I do have of the stage I am on, on how I have to sell my image, to whom and what I should show or not show of myself. All of these concepts can be translated to marketing as the answer to my question of what really changed me.
I could compare marketing’s influences on my behaviour with Plato’s Cave Analogy. At this point I am only seeing shadows of a reality I think is the only one and it is a safe place without any risk. However, knowing this I am closer to get out of the cave and feel the tangible reality; but how truthfully would that reality be if maybe, just maybe, I am in a bigger cave? Are there more shadows because there are more hands creating them?
I must be on a constant reflection of who I really am and who is really taking decisions; if I identify myself as an individual or as a collection of many others. Marketing, among other factors did influenced my behaviour in ways I was not expecting. Hence, knowing me is the first step to recognize which influences I can accept.