September 14th, 2009 by Daryl Glass
According to some dating experts the key to a successful date is to look your best, listen, flatter and agree with everything your “hot date” says. Sounds like good advice, but dig a little deeper and you cannot dismiss that something feels amiss. I often find myself wondering why we do this and found only one justifiable answer. Acceptance.
We all yearn to belong and be loved. We’re so desperate to fit in and to be loved that we search for a partner by the frailest of human qualities; looks. Darwin would smile and nod. Good looks = good genes … or so we thought. It shouldn’t amaze us then at the lengths people go to cheat this Darwinian system. Annually we spend thousands of Rands in the hope of looking slimmer, younger and sexier.
An example to prove my point; my girlfriend and I were invited to dinner with a couple of close friends. By close I mean the kind of hold-our-drinks-and-wipe-our-mouths-while-we-puked-behind-the-garden-wall,close. Pretensions therefore are silly. Yet Skattie* still insists on the whole home beauty regime before she’ll stick a perfectly manicured toe out the front door. I, on the other hand watch the telly and 10 minutes before we leave, grab a T-shirt, wash my face and reach for the car keys. But, Skattie is still busy. In fact, she’ll be at least another hour. Normally she assures me that “I’ll be right down”, but from experience I know she’s secretly eyeing those follicles and thinking “hmm, they really do need some attention before we go” Anyway, I bite my lip, smile and tell her she looks nice. Wrong move! Immediately she rounds “Nice? As supposed to pretty or radiant or?” …
Okay, I might be exaggerating for effect, but my point is this, as a society we’ve created these creatures of vanity by bombarding markets day in and day out with ways and means to perfect their look. Use this cream, spray on that perfume or wear this bra, and miraculously ladies, you too can look like Jessica Alba. Ja, right! People buy into the deception of photoshopped perfection.
Another cunning tactic some marketers use is the power of buzzwords; terms, I’m convinced are randomly picked out of high school science textbooks. They baffle us with words like “Collagen” (hydrated gelatin), “Pro Retinol A” and “Elastin”. Here’s a little known fact about “Pro Retinol A” – Yes, it an effective anti-aging ingredient, but what they conveniently forget to tell us is it makes skin more prone to sun damage. Yep, the very thing that ages skin the most. How exquisitely illogical.
Marketers want us to believe in dreams rather than reality. They tell us it’s the lifestyle, the HOPE of a better tomorrow. The H-bomb; ‘HOPE’; the holy grail of marketing buzzwords. Without ‘HOPE’, marketers risk falling in a heap of misery and stab themselves in the eye with the nearest Artline pencil. It’s a powerful word that therefore should be handled with care.
Yet, on the other end of the scale you get branding agencies (like us), who help marketing teams develop the courage for honesty. We believe in the power of ‘peer-marked’ promotion rather than lies and half-truths. Honesty about a product or service is an investment in the longevity of a marketing campaign. The world of marketing is forever changing; social media is forcing our industry to respect the power of word-of-mouth, referral marketing. I will go as far as to say that brands and marketing teams who fail to distance themselves from clichéd celebrity endorsements and oversell hype are set to embarrass their brands and themselves, unless of course they exaggerate for the sake of a good laugh.
Still, what should we do about the lie mongers that continue to patronise the markets they should be respecting? Should we get dear old Julius to rally the troops like he did (threatened) against Nandos? Or should we admit to ourselves that we can’t blame them for playing on our fears and insecurities. We need to take ownership of our choices. We need to admit to ourselves that being ‘doff’ is punishable by buying into a media created utopia where everyone is gorgeous and fruit juice is made by half naked virgins on a secret island somewhere. This is not reality. The truth is that no matter what we do, we will all grow old, gain a couple of kilograms on the way, a wrinkle here and there and lose some hair. That said, we might as well buy what makes us happy, eat what tantalises our taste buds and wear what we feel comfortable in. Allow advertising only to guide, the media to entertain and newsprint to light a braai. But above all else remember, being yourself is the most attractive person you’ll ever be.
*Name withheld for obvious reasons
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