Brain Sells cures the sick?

Shaman: "a priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden, and controlling events." (Merriam-Webster)

In a recent Marketing Daily article, Karl Greenberg explores how people make shopping decisions when confronted with many options. One common technique is to categorize: "I'll only look at shoes under $60." This weeds out all decision-making about shoes costing more than $60, thereby easing the process.

"Through you I become more of me"
According to the article, however, shopping isn't just a logic-driven collecting of products or brands. As Greenberg puts it, shopping is "a spasm of sentiment." Cognitive anthropologist and founder of Brain Sells, Dr. Robert Deutsch, agrees:

"There is no such thing as product loyalty; that's commodity-based. Attachment [to a product or brand] leads to self-loyalty. It looks like product loyalty, but it's not; it's 'through you I become more of me.'"

Duetsch believes shopping is about boosting my identity. This is more than shopping to feel good or to make a statement. It's actually about helping me to become more of me. Pretty strong claim, eh? Do you see why he goes on to conclude, "Great marketers are therefore shamans"? Marketing shamans help me become more my self.


Becoming human
Surveys show that plenty of consumers buy cars to express themselves. I'm guilty of this, and I don't really mind that my '91 Toyota pick-up says something about me. But this isn't the same as me becoming more me, is it? Can a truck really cure my sickness? A biblical approach says no. We become more human - more uniquely ourselves - as we learn to receive love and give love in return, not as we buy stuff.

I do shop to boost my identity from time to time, or at least to express myself to the world, but it usually happens when love is missing in some way. Ad-critic Jean Kilbourne says that "people who feel empty make great consumers." Insecurity and selfishness (a symptom of insecurity) correlate strongly with my tendency to settle for trifle solutions.

Deutsch, seemingly on the other hand, sees "brand attachment as the yellow brick road...a journey I [the consumer] make with you [the brand] that fills out what's already latent in me." I'm glad for the joy we experience through products and brands, but my sickness needs more than a Brand-Aid.

(Couldn't resist.)

Read my related interview with Lovemarks creator, Kevin Roberts, on the brands we can't live without.


Michele Corbett April 5, 2009 at 2:30 AM  

It might be a chicken or egg question. Does my identity result in my purchases or do I use my purchases to form/define my identity?

excerpt ( "To Spend or Not to Spend," pg. 9 of story)

"Either way, loyalty to specific brands and products becomes a sort of religious experience for some people, says Skye Jethani, whose upcoming book The Divine Commodity is set to be published in 2009. Using Apple as an example, Jethani
suggests on his blog that loyal Mac users view themselves as
possessing shared values and forming a community. Likewise,
Jethani worries, some Christians appear to view their religion in
consumerist ways."

Seems like buying products can play a role in forming our identity if we are not as cautious as you!

Sam Van Eman April 6, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

Thanks for the link, Michele! I haven't finished reading the article, but I saw that David McCarthy was quoted. I'm always looking for connections to advertising/marketing classrooms and Mt. St. Mary's U is just down the highway from me.

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