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The Best Things in Life Are Free, But Marketing Tells You Otherwise

Mickey Markoff, president of multidimensional marketing company MDM, shares wisdom into marketing and the importance of what money can't buy

The best things in life or free, but marketing will tell you otherwise, notes MDM President Mickey Markoff

The best things in life or free, but marketing will tell you otherwise, notes MDM President Mickey Markoff

The best things in life are free

Many say the best things in life are free, and this old adage is one which rings true throughout the ages. Ask your average person about the most memorable moments in their lives, and chances are good that you will hear several stories that recount things like a child being born, falling in love, and other similarly beautiful beats in time. The likelihood of one of those moments being a time they once stood in line for the latest mobile phone or watched their favorite movie? Slim to none. As enjoyable as entertainment and technology can be - and the potential it has to enrich our lives - there is simply no replacement for the real-life interactions with those we hold dearest in our lives.

Despite this fact, we live in a time when we are bombarded with messages from movies, marketing, and media in general, about how we must buy our way to happiness. There is even a term for it in the marketing world: aspirational advertising or marketing.

While the term itself may sound daunting, the concept is not difficult to understand. It appeals to basic human emotions, and largely, insecurity. It is no secret that humans are competitive in nature, and often seek out ways to act out this competition through a variety of behaviors—from buying a newer, more expensive car or brand of clothing than a neighbor or the latest tech gadget—these are all aspects of consumer behavior which prey on aspirational marketing and human instincts. It is something to which most of us mere mortals are subject to, no matter how steadfast we may attempt to be in our spartan purchasing patterns.

Basically, in consumer marketing, an ad seeks to appeal to a person who may want to own a product, but because of inefficient funds, can’t. Ever wanted to buy a pair of Gucci shoes, a classic Chanel suit, or a timeless Hermès bag, but think twice because of your bank account? You may be part of the target audience and not even know it. Many people are a target demo in their lifetime for one aspirational brand or another, and may not even know it.

Much of the appeal of aspirational marketing is in the emotions. Many of the advertisements appeal to the consumers’ feelings—“you, too can have this lavish lifestyle of limos and a limoncellos, if only if you buy our product!”

If this kind of marketing sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The idea of an aspirational brand is not a new one, and companies have been capitalizing on the concept for centuries. Selling an idea, a goal achieved, a visionary lifestyle has proven profitable for many companies throughout the years, although there are certainly examples of this concept backfiring. British Petroleum (BP) once sought to appeal to the idea that they were an ‘environmentally friendly’ brand, only to be set back by the highly covered environmental catastrophe that was the BP Gulf Crisis in 2010. After the events in 2010, BP spent over $93 million in advertising in just 3 months, over triple their previous spending for the year before.

BP logo

BP logo

You are more than a target market

Brands, like humans, are fallible, and often make mistakes. The idea of aspirational marketing isn’t a new one, and their appeal is understandable. Chances are good that most people have fallen prey to at least one ad campaign, and you can hardly blame yourself for it. Who doesn’t want to believe in the idea that their status and subsequent self-worth will improve with a simple purchase?

While we all may be subject to these adverts on a regular basis - and may even make a purchase because of them.

It is important to remember that we are all more than these ideas. We are more than a demographic that has been crafted from our statistics. We are more than our 20,30,40,50+ something age bracket, gender, and socio-economic class that most of these marketing campaigns appeal to. And we can achieve the lifestyles that we aspire to with, and without, the products that are being pushed our way.

With this said, there is nothing wrong with making purchases with the idea that they will better our lives. It is only natural to want to improve upon on our current circumstance. But grounding ourselves in a practice that will improve our lives regardless of our consumption is key. Before you buy the ‘next best thing’, consider taking a moment to list a few things that you are grateful for, spend some time with your child, take a few minutes to meditate or pray or even prepare yourself a thoughtful meal. Maybe talk a walk outside and lavish in the sights and sounds of your landscape. Take pleasure in the things that money cannot buy, but the things that simply exist, waiting for your appreciation.


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