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Avid aspirationals on the stairway to status

By Ian Nance - posted Monday, 17 December 2007

We all make choices about those products or services which fill a need; smart marketing identifies or creates that need, while advertising raises awareness of it and its way of fulfillment.

The buying and selling of goods and services is essential to life in modern society. We are all consumers by necessity, and trade is vital to our economy. If we are thoughtful and aware, we make a reasoned balance of needs and wants. Should we not make considered judgments and convince ourselves that we want rather than need something which we can’t really afford, we often put it on credit. But on all accounts, (no pun intended) we get it!

To manage our personal finances well, we need to be aware of some of the ways that advertising influences personal attitudes about a product or service; we need to stay in control of both the desires in our mind and the money in our pockets.


The less we think deeply, the more we fail to separate truth from delusion, the more emotion takes over, then the more likely we are to be motivated by impulse. Impulse buying is a significant factor in retail, often driven by the emotional subtexts woven into brand advertising. Yet impulse buying is enjoyed by most of us, so how do we stay in control of our purchases?

It would help to be aware that everything which happens in life is a result of our own thought and action; to recognise that we, and only we, control our destiny; to grasp that happiness is not dependent on others, or on material possessions; to appreciate that competition to have something better than the next person can just lead to jealousy and suffering.

In our social relationships it is important not to “judge a book by its cover”. It helps if we attempt to see behind the image that people, corporations, and products project when they try to be something which they are not. Yet being judgmental about groups, as opposed to individuals, is important to marketers who must make judgments about outcomes and the psychographic they wish to pursue; the various socio-economic groupings, differences of occupation, income, education, culture and lifestyle.

In the absence of an understanding of an individual’s nature, first glimpses produce a strong effect, and we rely on broad impressions; “that person’s very fat … probably slothful and lazy” or “that one’s got a beard … bit suspicious!” Visual clichés.

These factors draw attention to one group which certainly does judge books by the covers, is reluctant to separate fact from fantasy, and is influenced more by image than reality.
It is heavily conformist in an ethos where a strong commonality of attitude, appearance, behaviour, values, lifestyle, and sometimes location, is a characteristic. Its members seldom think deeply outside their own interests and attractions, much less examine what is offered up as truth. I call them unthinking aspirationals.

Many see themselves as competitors in the contest to consume, believing that what they own proves how worthy they are. For them, shadow amounts to substance, possessions equate to social persona, and status is king. Fooled by the fallacies of competitive consumerism, these gleeful gullibles greedily grab the goodies, unaware of the wise caution: “Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to cast the old aside.”


Marketing and advertising are skilled, manipulative arts, and their aims can be socially beneficial, or else destructive to individuals. Designers of advertising could well benefit by noting Delamer Duverus’ warning on the significance of “Truth”:

One basic truth can be used as a foundation for a mountain of lies,
and if we dig down deep enough in the mountain of lies,
and bring out that truth,
to set it on top of the mountain of lies,
the entire mountain of lies will crumble under the weight of that one truth …

Truth unmasks delusion which, in turn, is a state of ignorance that skews the truth. So how can we define and recognise reality … know what is true? Testing and reasoning is the way to examine philosophies about truth, yet the bulk of the consumer market seldom has the time or motivation to do so. They trust, because they wish to!

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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