The Issue of Marketing in a Capitalist Society

Katherine Gregory - Student
Published in
5 min readMar 27, 2017


Imagine your daily morning routine. You wake up, brush your teeth, and eat breakfast while flipping through various news and weather televisions channels. Then, you get in your car and make that same monotonous drive to work, school or wherever you may be headed for the day while listening to your favorite radio station. Just in that short period of time, you were likely exposed to various advertisements: on TV, on the radio and possibly even a few billboards.

Advertising has become such a large part of society that most people don’t even think twice about the mass amount of information they subconsciously absorb about various goods every day. Even fewer individuals are aware of the meticulous attention to every small detail that goes into the creation of these advertisements, and how these details are specifically tailored to influence them in a multitude of ways. In a society where many remain uneducated and unaware of the world around them, it is critical to become informed on the issue and understand the ins-and-outs of marketing in the world we live in.

While the business of advertising is inevitable in a capitalist society and has some positive side effects, such as stimulating our economy and creating healthy competition within industries, it’s effects can also be very damaging. The way in which advertisements manipulate our thoughts and feelings has slowly created a population that places too much value on material goods, leading to a struggle to find fulfillment and genuine happiness in life.

Most people would argue that they have free will; that they have the power to choose what to buy and what not to buy. While this may be true, what leads them to choose to buy or not to buy something may very well be out of their hands. Many psychologists have studied exactly what aspect of ads makes them memorable and appealing to consumers. The smallest details, such as using a logo instead of directly stating the brand’s name, the location of images and text on a page, and even the texture and contrast of the images presented can make or break a consumer’s likelihood of purchasing a product.

To this extent, advertising that purposefully manipulates a consumer’s thoughts may not be the worst thing in the world. It is expected for companies to desire maximum profits, and therefore create advertisements that will make this happen. So long as consumers are not being misled by false information, it is perfectly moral for businesses to take advantage of these various psychological studies to create advertisements that will be most beneficial to the sale of their product. In this sense, advertisements can even be a positive thing. By stimulating consumer purchasing activities, the economy will see benefits. Similarly, advertisements create competition among companies, which provides a motive to produce higher quality and less expensive products for customers to enjoy.

However, the psychology of advertising does not stop at page arrangement and texture. Tactics such as the Bandwagon Theory are very commonly used to persuade viewers of the ad to buy the product. This tactic is used by making an exaggerated claim that everyone is using a product, or making the customer feel like in order to fit into a certain group of people, they must purchase the advertised product.

While the mass marketing of today leads to positive economic effects, these effects have also been accompanied by the creation of a world with a dangerous reliance on material goods. Whether we are aware of this or not, the way in which advertisements are created has lead our population to believe that buying things will aid in finding happiness and the feeling of fulfillment.

Another commonly used marketing strategy is called Affective Conditioning. Affective Conditioning is when advertisers find ways to lead the viewer to associate their product with other positive things and feelings. For example, an ad may show a group of friends laughing and having a picnic on a sunny day, while eating sandwiches on their specific brand of bread. The bread does not actually have anything to do with the expressed happiness of the people in the ad, but viewers are subconsciously lead to believe that by buying that brand, they will experience similar happiness.

Advertisements like this have become incredibly prevalent where a connection between positive feelings and products is formed, which has begun to have a detrimental impact. With this type of marketing, there is a quite obvious connection between material goods and happiness. The widespread presence of advertising tactics like this have created a population that connects happiness and satisfaction in life to the constant cycle of purchasing new products.

Feeling down? Treat yourself to a brand new smartphone. Lacking self confidence? Refresh your wardrobe. Trying to catch the attention of someone special? Indulge on that overpriced perfume or cologne.

Personal improvement means buying new things, not working on whatever the root cause of what our problems may be. We have false needs; we think we need to buy new designer clothes, a fancy new car, or an expensive new watch, when we actually are just filling a void in our lives with the instant gratification that is promised to us by advertisements.

Personal relationships have been hurt greatly by the advertising industry as well. Humans are now defined by how much we own, not our personal attributes. We no longer find sense of humor, kindness, intelligence, or creativity to be valuable characteristics, but attempt to impress each other by showing off expensive belongings. The way in which advertisements depicts our world is teaching even young children that happiness comes along with having the latest and greatest new products, which sets up for a life of disappointment.

So while there are positive affects of marketing, are they really worth it? In a realistic sense, economic growth will always be important, however this means nothing if we have lost the ability to find true meaning in life. Our world needs to take a step back from the constant influx of new and exciting goods to learn once again what true happiness means and to appreciate each other for who we are, not what we own.


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