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Of religion and successful marketing: The doctrine of finding solutions to nonexistent problems

If you follow American politics, by now you’re privy to the case of the many bathroom bills introduced by religious conservatives in various states.

bathroom-bills630-1

The recent, rather unsurprising revelation that all of the anti-trans propaganda is nothing but propaganda reminded me of the utter effectiveness of the Goebbels model. Particularly the fabrication of anxiety. Or as Doob put it in Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda:

Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level.

  1. Propaganda must reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat.
  2. Propaganda must diminish anxiety (other than that concerning the consequences of defeat) which is too high and cannot be reduced by people themselves.

Goebbels, of course, was not alone- nor was he the brilliant creator of modern marketing. Long before him monotheistic religions had already put those principles into practice with extraordinary success. The creation of anxiety has been the backbone of interpersonal manipulation forever.

We can boil it down to this:

create anxiety → propose solution (that only you hold)

you’re going to hell → unless you follow our instructions

transgender people are going to rape your children → unless you give us money (and vote for us) so we can protect you

We see this pattern again and again with practically all issues pushed by the religious right. It’s their go-to technique.

In the case of modern marketing the model has been refined. Take this Dolce & Gabbana ad with David Gandy:

On the surface it’s incredibly benign, right? Easy on the eye. The messages it’s sending are anything but. We start with that glorious landscape. Message 1: Do you make enough money to visit places like that? Two seconds later, Gandy’s face. Message 2: Are you attractive? Then comes the face of a beautiful woman. Message 3: How does your wife/girlfriend compare? 0.4 to 0.6 seconds is a crotch shot of the man. Message 4: He’s virile. Are you? Then he dives into the water. Message 5: How athletic are you? And finally they kiss as he unties her bikini top. Message 6: How much sex are you having?

In effect the technique being used is to make the watcher feel he’s substandard. Not attractive, athletic or wealthy (all major status markers for males)- and the closest he’ll get to any of that is by paying €79 for a Dolce & Gabbana perfume.  Just like in the religious/Goebbels model, they fabricate the problem for the consumer by playing to known insecurities. Before watching the ad people were probably not in the mirror comparing themselves to a lifesize cutout of a male model, or wondering how much it would cost to spend the summer in Capri.

 

 

 

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19 comments on “Of religion and successful marketing: The doctrine of finding solutions to nonexistent problems

  1. jerrydickerson8
    April 30, 2016

    Reblogged this on The Cretonia Times-Picayune.

    Like

  2. Cara
    April 30, 2016

    Yup. Gentlemen, if you buy Dolce & Gabbana’s man-perfume, you’ll get to go diving in beautiful water, you’ll have an athletic physique, you’ll be wealthy, you’ll be well-hung, and you’ll make out with the supermodel. Dolce & Gabbana know how to sell to men; they (being two men who prefer the company of other men over that of women) know what a man wants.

    But about the “bathroom laws” the religious wing nuts have passed in places like Tennessee & North Carolina. I want to move to one of these states…there must be no crime there & a balanced budget, and great schools, and no roads in disrepair, no homeless people, if the government there has nothing else to do but tell certain groups of people where they can and can’t take a shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting how you worded the first part: ” if you buy Dolce & Gabbana’s man-perfume, you’ll get to…” That’s how they want you to see the message, in the positive. The models are literally modelling what life could be like. The pretense is to be aspirational. But in the mind (and because of social dynamics) it turns into a negative because only a minute percentage of the population comes close to being in that category of people.
      In reality the message is psychologically destructive because they’re not selling a real possibility. Nothing can make people wake up the next day and be that other more successful, more beautiful person. It’s a con playing on insecurities 😉

      Like

      • Cara
        April 30, 2016

        Of course it is. Show me a TV ad that isn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cara
        April 30, 2016

        Smoke Marlboro cigarettes (ok, that ad hasn’t aired on American TV in decades) and you’ll BECOME the ruggedly handsome cowboy oozing macho sex appeal; buy your bra at Victoria’s Secret and you, too can be a perfect-looking “Angel”, wanted by all the men (and some of the women); buy a Jaguar and you’ll be the British super villain who voices the ad for that vehicle (saying “oh yes, it’s good to be bad”$

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hariod Brawn
    April 30, 2016

    Marketing and marketing people – the bane of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sirius Bizinus
    April 30, 2016

    I can’t rant about bathroom bills enough. Everything they allegedly protect against is already fucking illegal. These laws don’t cite any actual evidence of transgender people perpetrating violence against anyone in bathrooms.

    One good thing about these bills are that they have a decent chance of getting rid of gender discrimination under the law, potentially even providing more protections for people based on gender. While the suffering they have to endure is inexcusable, at least now they’re going to start getting heard in public. It’s just terrible that it has to happen this way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • agrudzinsky
      May 1, 2016

      I guess, society must go through this crap. To clean the house, one must move the couch and pull out all the shit that piled up behind it over the decades. The whole animosity around gay marriage that lasted since 2002 when Bush first brought up the issue to divert public attention from his failures in Iraq, ended up with the last year’s historic SCOTUS ruling. It worked for Bush and it worked for gays. Win-win :-). No worries. In a few years they will pass a bill mandating unisex individual restrooms in public places. Even afa advocates this. This one is a nobrainer.

      Like

  5. acflory
    April 30, 2016

    Oh! I looked at that adv. and thought…okay, cute guy but what’s he selling? I had no idea he was selling aftershave, but after your breakdown it suddenly hit me, no wonder I didn’t get it, the message wasn’t aimed at ‘me’ at all – i.e. women in general. And then message no.2 hit me – but that’s EXACTLY how they target us too. And it works. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • The tendency to comparison tends to be within in our own gender/race/class. It’s how we know what our role is in the group. So a woman’s response to the advertisement would be to compare herself to the woman and her husband/partner to the man.
      But you can extend the concept to advertisements aimed at women. In fact the messages are even worse. Just as a game, the next time you watch an ad aimed at women, take it apart. What psychological mechanisms are they using?

      Like

      • acflory
        April 30, 2016

        Like Cara, I think I’ve always seen the ‘positive’ side to marketing – i.e. buy this and you too can be beautiful. And as a separate thing, I knew that those models /did/ make ordinary women feel inadequate. I just didn’t put the two together, didn’t realise that the reason ultra thin models are used is not because they are beautiful, but because their beauty is unachievable….unless you buy, buy, buy.

        It’s kind of disturbing to realise we can all be manipulated so easily.

        Like

      • It is very interesting 🙂 If you think about, a positive as a stand alone wouldn’t compel a purchase.
        To compel a purchase they need to make you feel a series of things, first and foremost that whatever is going on in the ad is *better than* whatever you have/whatever your life is like.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. foolsmusings
    April 30, 2016

    I stopped worrying about my insecurities a long time ago. At least I think so, they’re not showing are they? :p

    Liked by 1 person

  7. agrudzinsky
    May 1, 2016

    The crotch is utterly unimpressive.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. agrudzinsky
    May 1, 2016

    It’s amazing how quickly these issues engage millions of people who might not even have been aware of the issue a day before. Then someone throws the bone and suddenly everyone has an opinion and must post it on the web or worse, on the ballot. The right and the hardest thing to do is just to stay quiet. Why do people have this irresistible need to read and respond to the news?

    Like

  9. davidprosser
    May 1, 2016

    I’m surprised the church still has so much power to get these amendments passed by some States. I thought there was a big separation between church and the state in the US.
    What doesn’t surprise me is that it always seem to be the same states that hit the headlines for these issues. Are the whole of the populace different to that of other states? Enjoying the notoriety perhaps.
    Hugs

    Like

  10. Clare Flourish
    May 1, 2016

    Lexus have it worse: they have a succession of not particularly attractive people looking longingly at a Lexus, then someone driving it away. The music for the unattractive heaven watchers is incomplete, yearning, ending below Doh; the music for the man in Heaven is triumphantly tonic chord.

    On the anti-trans bathroom stuff I have read, I am just saddened that anyone wants to believe this. “I, a socialist, would vote for Ted Cruz because he would appoint conservative judges who would keep trans out of women’s bathrooms”. Oh, God! Should I get a t-shirt reading, “Not a monster, just a tranny”!

    Like

  11. theoccasionalman
    May 1, 2016

    I love North Carolina, and I hope to live there again someday, despite the UK’s travel advisory. I was hoping you’d have picked up on this and posted about it: the first time Britain has issued state-specific travel warnings, and they’re for LGBT travelers to my home state.

    Like

  12. Pingback: Of religion and successful marketing: The doctrine of finding solutions to nonexistent problems | olddogthoughts

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This entry was posted on April 30, 2016 by in activism and tagged , , , , , , .
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