When I was an adolescent living in Venezuela, I had an obsession with the music of The Beach Boys. In 1993, the only thing I wanted for my birthday was The Beach Boys Thirty Year Anniversary 5CD Box Set, and lucky me, that’s what I got. Inside the collection, there was a special edition bumper sticker. I was too young to drive, but I remember dreaming of growing up and putting the bumper sticker in my own sports car.
I was perusing through my collection of CD’s the other night, and found the bumper sticker inside the box set, and told this same story to my wife. She encouraged me to put the 1993 sticker to my car, and I have to admit that after 26 years, I was tempted. I didn’t, and there’s a simple or complicated reason: I tend to overthink details too much.
26 years have passed and now I reject the notion of using a bumper sticker to make a statement. I still like their music, but now I like a lot of music, and I’m happy to enjoy the music in private and not having to scream to the world what I am. I don’t roll the windows down while blasting my stereo, I don’t have the urge to share my music to the world. I keep it to myself, and I know there’s somebody out there thanking me for that. I like to think that I don’t need to belong to a specific tribe to be happy, but then again there might be a No-Tribe Tribe in some segmentation study.
Whether I like it or not, we as human beings have the need of belonging. We are social animals after all, and we need to be constantly sending signals to the world to try to define who we are, and what we are all about. Maybe somebody who likes my sticker, or the way I dress approaches me to say hello and Voila! We have collaborated in the expansion of the tribe.
In the book “Communicating in the 21st Century”, Baden Eunson details in his chapter about Non Verbal Communication that, “The ways we dress and adorn ourselves tell others whether we belong to a particular group, or which group or high-status individual we imitate out of admiration; they also carry messages about wealth, rank or class.”
Stickers in our car, phone or any other electronics are part of those adornments that aim to tell the world who we are.
In the PBS documentary The Persuaders, Douglas Rushkoff puts it more bluntly: “we slip easily into our demographic tribes, each of us focused on our own list of needs and desires. which, after all, is exactly the way marketers want it. because as long as we’re thinking about ourselves, we’re better consumers.”
The persuaders they talk about in the documentary are the marketers and advertisers. The documentary explores what techniques they use to persuade consumers, but Douglas Rushkoff is mainly looking for answers on how marketers and advertisers will do to break through the clutter of information and messages to establish a lasting relationship with the consumers. After seeing the capabilities that data-driven decisions will continue to bring, he projects the role of the marketers and advertisers to the future and concludes that “Marketers [may] find a way so deep inside each one of us that it no longer feels like persuasion at all.” And then goes on to question that “Maybe we [the consumer] are in control.”
But are we? Are we naturally programmed to want to put a bumper sticker to scream to the world that we really like “The Beach Boys”? Or is that a learned behavior? Who are we sending a statement to? What do we get in return? Why do advertisers and marketers compete for our attention? To tell us what we already know? To reinforce our own beliefs?
Is technology bringing back the Skinner’s operant conditioning techniques that we once questioned as Fascist? Are we really in control of what motivates us?
We are strategists, we need to build brands that care about their legacy. We need to play the long term game. We need to prioritize ethics and trust in our everyday activities if we really care about building a long lasting relationship with our consumers.
POST STATUS: We as marketers need to look at new technologies through the prism of morality.