Consuming

What’s below is not a JBan original by any stretch. In fact, it’s taken from a blog called Becoming Missional, which I’ve just been introduced to.

Of all the popular words that grace the covers of churchy books these days, the word “missional” is my very favourite. This is no mere buzzword, here today and gone tomorrow. Now I know… words DO lose power as we kill them and overkill them, but “missional” holds a concept that is timeless, deeply connected to God as He is revealed in Scripture, and central to everything we are supposed to be.

Below are some interesting thoughts on the struggle between being that kind of person and being consumed by the desire to consume.

Good reading below…

Consumerism Wars Against Missional Living

Do you remember that classic television show “The Jeffersons”? It was a show in the 70’s that symbolized the idea that we all need to be working to get ahead in this world.

The theme song said:

Well, we’re movin on up, To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up, To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues
Gettin’ our turn at bat………..
We’re movin on up.

You see the world wants you to believe it is all about getting ahead and getting all you can. There is a level of selfishness in this attitude and we have already talked about that, but we must also understand that the executives on Madison Avenue, the marketing capital of the world, know all about the tendency to have happy feet and want to “move on up.”

Recently an episode of “Frontline” on PBS was aired (titled “The Persuaders”) that discussed this in detail. It featured commentary from leading marketing experts. The following is an excerpt from the transcript of that program.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Not so long ago, the high-concept ads of today were all but unthinkable.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Ads laid claim to real, tangible differences between one product and another.

KEVIN ROBERTS, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide: What were brands? They were based on what I call “er” words: whiter, brighter, cleaner, stronger.

KEVIN ROBERTS: Watch any commercials on American TV and you’ll see these words up in the first three seconds hammered remorselessly into your brain.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: But at some point, these words ceased to have meaning. We no longer believed that one product was any brighter or cleaner than any other.

KEVIN ROBERTS: Everything works now. You know, French Fries taste crisp. Coffee’s hot. You know, beer tastes good, unless you live in America and then, you know, you’ve got to live with what you get. But all these things now are table stakes.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: By the early 1990s, a new approach to marketing came to the fore, one that leapt right over what the product did to what the product meant.

NAOMI KLEIN, Author, No Logo: These were the super-brands, like Nike, Starbucks, the Body Shop. And what they noticed these brands had in common was that they were engaging in a kind of a sort of pseudo-spiritual marketing. So Nike said that they were about the meaning of sports, but more than that, that they were about transcendence through sports. Starbucks said that they were about the idea of community, of place, that is, a third place that is not home, not work. Benetton was, of course, selling multi-culturalism, racial diversity.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: This lesson – that a brand could forge an emotional, even spiritual bond with today’s cynical consumer – wasn’t lost on corporate America.

NAOMI KLEIN: This wave of corporate epiphanies in the mid-’90s, where all these companies, you know, were told, “You know, what your problem is, is you don’t have a big idea behind your brand.” So they would hire high-priced consultants, and they would have these kind of corporate sweat lodges and gather around the campfire and sort of try to channel their inner brand meaning. And they would emerge from these processes sort of flushed and say, you know, “Polaroid isn’t a camera, it’s a social lubricant.”

DOUGLAS ATKIN, Merkley and Partners Advertising: When I was a brand manager at Proctor & Gamble, my job was basically to make sure the product was good, develop new advertising copy, design the pack. Now a brand manager has an entirely different kind of responsibility. In fact, they have more responsibility. Their job now is to create and maintain a whole meaning system for people, through which they get identity and understanding of the world. Their job now is to be a community leader.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: Ad strategist Douglas Atkin, an expert on the relationship between consumers and brands, says he had a eureka moment one night during a focus group.

DOUGLAS ATKIN: I was in a research facility watching eight people rhapsodize about a sneaker. And I thought, “Where is this coming from? This is, at the end of the day, a piece of footwear.” But the terms they were using were evangelical. So I thought, if these people are expressing cult-like devotion, then why not study cults? Why not study the original? Find out why people join cults and apply that knowledge to brands.

FALUN GONG MEMBER: I’m loyal to this practice because it’s done so much for me.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: If Atkin could find what pushed a person from mere fan to devoted disciple, perhaps he could market that knowledge.

WRESTLING FAN: Most of the people I discuss the WWF with know that it’s not a sport, you know, it’s a masculine ballet.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: So he compared dozens of groups he considered cults with so called “cult brands,” from Hare Krishna to Harley Davidson–

VW BEETLE OWNER: If you’re smart and kind of individual, that’s what you drive.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: –from Falun Gong to Mac.

MACINTOSH USER: I think there’s something about Mac users. Like, they get it.

DEADHEAD: We just had discovered something.

LINUX USER: They realized there are other people like them, and they cooperate on certain projects, and it’s part of belonging to the tribe.

DOUGLAS ATKIN: And the conclusion was this, is that people, whether they’re joining a cult or joining a brand, do so for exactly the same reasons. They need to belong, and they want to make meaning. We need to figure out what the world is all about, and we need the company of others. It’s simply that.

Saturn is a really good example. It’s a mass cult brand. For example, 45,000 people turned up to spend their holiday vacation time at the factory in Tennessee instead of going to Disney World or the Grand Canyon. Now, why would they do that? It’s because they wanted to meet other people who own Saturns. They wanted to meet the rest of the Saturn family. They wanted to meet the people who made the car. The people who made the car wanted to meet them. And the people who ran the Saturn business knew that.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: They not only knew it, they turned it into an ad, which only brought more people into the “Saturn family.”

[television commercial] We called it the Saturn homecoming. They could see where the idea for a new kind of car company had taken shape, and we could thank them for believing we could do it.

DOUGLAS ATKIN: They created a great meaning system for Saturn in those fantastic commercials. Their meaning system was based on old-time values of community. It was a kind of an icon that America yearned for but couldn’t find anymore.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF: And that’s the object of emotional branding: to fill the empty places where non-commercial institutions, like schools and churches, might once have done the job. Brands become more than just a mark of quality, they become an invitation to a longed-for lifestyle, a ready-made identity.

Did you catch that last sentence? The bold one? Go ahead and read it again. I’ll wait.

The marketing world is trying to fill our spiritual voids with…………well, stuff actually. Nikes, ipods, VW bugs, hot tubs and everything else you can imagine. Marketers understand the spiritual void that exists deep within each of us. They know if they can connect with you on a deeper level with their product, they will sell it to you and make you a part of their community.

The lure of the things of this world becomes greater all the time. Today’s advertising bombards us with things to give us “happy feet” and send us scampering up the ladder of worldly success. But we must remain focused on the fact that, all the stuff of this world can not fill the void within.

Only One does that, and he’s not for purchase. Nor does he care to share our affections with a pair of Jordans or an iMac.

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3 thoughts on “Consuming

  1. I think it is a bit scary that even big corporations have figured out the purpose and meaning of the church and still when they add 2+2 they get 3.

    Maybe us church goers should take a page from their books and see how we can “fill the empty places where commercial institutions, like Coca-Cola, Nike, P&G or Saturn are trying to do the job but will never succeed at giving us true spiritual satisfaction.”

  2. I can only say that my experience with disney world has been more than satisfactory. Their customer servie is 1st class and the disney park is one place that once you enter, you simply do not want to leave !

    My husband and I will be visiting disney world again later this year, together with our 2 boys. We all agree that it is the best place to spend our well deserved holidays.

    Here come disneyland…

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