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The average person sees 3,000 marketing messages a day. That’s 3,000 ways to say "you deserve it." In reality, it’s probably more like 3,000 lies. A baby born today will see almost 22 million ads before they’re 20 years old!
Whether we realize it or not, these messages affect our lives, perspectives and purchases. One way to stand strong against these thousands of messages is to understand what marketers do to get you to buy their product that "you just can’t live without."
While working in the publishing business, Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz, learned a two-step formula many marketers use:
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- Convince people that they are miserable, and
- Convince them that they will be happy if they buy this possession.
“If you think about it, that’s a terrible thing to do to somebody,” Don said. It’s manipulative. But the sad thing is, it works! These marketing lies can rob us of the meaningful lives we were meant to live. Don calls it “stealing our stories.”
Stealing Our Stories
In his new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Don explores how the concepts of writing a good story also apply when it comes to living a good story—living a beautiful, meaningful, fulfilling life.
“When marketers step in and whisper into our ears that we really want this thing, we begin to tell stories that are stupid,” said Don. “You can either want a great relationship with your kids … or you can want a new robotic vacuum cleaner or a car."
Don explained, “If you went to a movie about a guy who just tried to buy stuff all his life, at no point would you think that movie was rich, meaningful, beautiful or inspiring. And so if it wouldn’t work in a movie, it’s not going to work in your life.
“Materialism tricks us into telling really dumb stories with our lives, and consumerism teaches us that these things will set us free and make us happy," he said. "It’s all a lie, of course.”
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Don explained that one of the great things about living a simpler life is we’re forced to live the stories that actually matter. Having less money to spend can be a blessing in many ways. Thousands of families who have lived tight in order to get out of debt will tell you that!
“If you’re not trying to buy a boat or a car, and instead you’re trying to love your wife more or spend more time with your kids—in the long run, those stories are much more rewarding than the stories of material possessions.”
Changing Your Family Tree
We can live more meaningful stories if we’re intentional about it, regardless of our incomes. Here’s a little experiment to try when it comes to making purchases:
- When you notice an ad and start to buy something, ask yourself what it’s trying to get you to believe. Is it true?
- If you find yourself believing that you need this “thing” to be happy, ask yourself what the bigger issue is. Is there something else going on in your life to deal with, move past, or break free from?
- Make the decision to tell a better story with your life, and then live it out in little things like what you buy and what you don’t buy day to day.
When you understand the power of marketing and how it plays out in your life, you become empowered to make good, informed decisions instead of falling into the trap of believing more “stuff” will make you happier.
Read more: Let the Buyer Beware! Do you have power over your purchases, or do they have power over you?