15 November 2009

Weasel Nation.

I hate marketing people. This much you already knew about me. I've been trying to encapsulate just how I feel about the profession and how dirty it is, and I finally hit on it in a Twitter post this morning: "Marketing is like being raped in your sleep. By the time you realize you've been fucked, it's too late to get rid of unwanted product."

As a business major I've met more than my share of future marketing guys. I even, as a requirement for my degree, took a marketing class this summer (sift through the May/June archive if you want my take). The earnest do-gooder attitude, like marketing makes the world a place worth living in or something, is the core conceit of those particular students. They are like religious evangelists, preaching the gospel of shallow, materialistic conspicuous consumerism and acting like High Avatars for the Economy (there's something very South Park about that mental image). In their world, the poor, unfortunate folks who don't have all their useless crap are like hollow, impoverished Third World urchins.

It does, however, invite the interesting question: If not for conspicuous consumerism, would the economy collapse completely? If everybody bought only what they needed and lived within their means, finding small luxuries once in a while and not allowing their purchases to define them (very Fight Club, no?), then how far would the GDP drop? Would automakers go completely out of business if it weren't for relentless advertising of "get this year's new model" to people who already have perfectly serviceable cars, many of which don't even have fifty thousand never mind 100,000 or more miles on them? Would the housing market completely and utterly collapse to the point where we'd have McGhostTowns worthy of the mining-bust tourist attraction areas of the Old West?

I fear that the only thing keeping the whole nation afloat is that when the marketing people come around to forcibly impregnate us with stupid ideas and ultimately unsatisfying wants, we've got to do our patriotic metaphorical duty and spread our legs and try to like it. Something tells me a good 1930s redux Great Depression of the sort the government beggared our future to try and avoid this time is about the only thing left that will save us from ourselves. That, or mass exodus so the entire United States looks like East Berlin before they put the Wall up.

Shakespeare had the right idea but the wrong target. First thing we do, let's kill all the marketing weasels. "Weasels", rhymes with "measles", so immunize yourself and realize that mass marketing is a disease on the landscape.


  1. Fox,

    You're not paying attention to what is going on out there. You're also fighting the wrong battle. We have had a strong taste of the outcomes you question these past twelve months.

    When gas went to $4 per gallon, and more in most of the country, people learned that they really could do without a lot of the crap they were used to buying. The financial crises dominated the news and made people even more pessimistic. They haven't forgotten that yet, although they will. Even now, people that have jobs are saving up their Dave Ramsey "Emergency Fund" and people that do not have jobs are just thankful that Congress approved the extended unemployment program.

    So - piece by piece:

    "If not for conspicuous consumerism, would the economy collapse completely?"

    No, but it got kind of puny for a while. Things aren't very going very well in most of the country yet.

    "If everybody bought only what they needed and lived within their means, finding small luxuries once in a while and not allowing their purchases to define them (very Fight Club, no?), then how far would the GDP drop?"

    According to the NBER, real GDP declined at a 6.2% annualized rate for the fourth quarter of 2008.

    "Would automakers go completely out of business...?"

    No, but two out of three needed serious federal (cash) bailouts to stay alive. Make that three out of three if you consider the fact that "Cash for Clunkers" was an auto industry bailout. That moved new vehicles off dealer and manufacturer lots and older vehicles into salvage yards.

  2. I've been saying for ages that the only way we're ever going to get a better system than our consumer-driven economy of mindless waste and shallow pursuit is for the current system to decisively, unmistakably collapse in such a way that all and sundry folks will see that it's unsustainable. From out of the wreckage (and make no mistake, there would be horrible wreckage on a 1930s scale) a better, more compact, more sustainable society (both financially and environmentally) would arise.


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