“I know that this expensive herbal tincture homeopathic remedy is merely an expensive placebo. But I’ll take it anyway, because placebos work.”
A friend used to wear a fur coat in the winter, telling me that it was the only thing that kept her warm. Of course, if the goal was warmth, she’d probably be better off wearing it inside out.
We buy luxury goods, take placebos and engage in all sorts of actions that aren’t going to hold up under the rational analysis of a double-blind study. But they work because we want them to. And often, we want them to because of marketing.
We end up conflating the things we believe with the powerful marketing that got us to believe those things. We feel like questioning the role of marketing is somehow questioning who we are and what we hold dear.
Mostly, marketing is what we call it when someone else is influenced by a marketer. When we’re influenced, though, it’s not marketing, it’s a smart choice.
Do you use that toothpaste because they ran ads that resonated with you, or because you think it actually makes your teeth whiter?
It doesn’t have to be this way… The thing is, placebos work even if you’re smart enough to know that they’re placebos.
Are there primary voters who say, “I know that he craves attention, hustling and manipulating to sell emotional promises, not realistic action, but I’m going to vote for him anyway, because it makes me feel powerful to do so…”?
As soon as that self-awareness kicks in, it’s possible to be more discerning about what you believe and why.
Or are there mindful people who say, “there’s no clear right answer in this conflict, but my people, my folks, we have always supported this side, so I’m going to keep doing that, because breaking with them is too painful…”?
As soon as you ask that question, it’s a lot easier to have a civil, productive conversation, because instead of wearing yourself out arguing tropes, you can talk about the actual issue, which is belonging to a tribe. We can talk about how we work through the cultural change to get to a new place, not have an argument about history.
Marketing works. It’s powerful. We’re able to acknowledge that and see it for what it is without giving up what we choose to believe.
We can create better decisions and more amity by being clear with ourselves and others about how marketing is changing what we believe (and vice versa).
It’s a lot harder to be manipulated if you accept that there’s a manipulator, and it’s a lot easier to see a path forward if you acknowledge that you weren’t looking for one before.