Lie to me. Really, it’s fine.
It’s probably because I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I’ve finally figured out something that’s been bugging me for years.
The thing is, I know people are hugely contradictory creatures but I could never quite put my finger on why they allow the marketing industry to lie to them so often.
We all know that no-one likes to be deceived, and people always SAY things like ‘cut the marketing bullshit, just give it to me straight’ yet day after day, year after year consumers reward us for presenting them with such warped versions of reality (ie, lies) that it makes a mockery of the whole ‘don’t bullshit me’ thing.
I’m thinking it comes down to a simple equation. Deception on its own will almost always be rejected. But Deception + Flattery is a guaranteed winner.
Take the classic compliment delivered by a man to a woman. He knows it’s bullshit, she certainly knows it’s bullshit. But like yeast magically turns a bunch of grape juice into wine, a little flattery will turn even the most outrageous deception into a persuasive sales pitch.
L’Oreal may have come right out and said it best (because you’re worth it) but every brand that seeks to convince you of its magical, life-enhancing properties will try and seek to do so by also reminding you of the specialness of you.
Real Estate agents do this exceedingly well; a correctly marketed property will have you imagining yourself there, enjoying the fruits of your labours. It feels like you’re not so much buying a house as finally claiming that which you so richly deserve.
The right kind of bottled water/car/apparel can (and will) make us appear sportier, sexier, healthier and far more dynamic to others. Not (and this is the important bit) not because of the water/car/apparel per se, but because the water/car/apparel will finally allow the real you to shine through.
And that’s the key. Everyone believes that underneath all the foibles and imperfections and ordinariness that we all carry with us from cradle to grave, there’s someone truly amazing. Someone good enough to truly earn their place in the world.
So I choose to believe that Apple products will make me look as productive and creative as I really am. That Nike products will make me look as athletic as I really am. That Audi makes me look like the person of taste and means that I really am. And so on and so on.
Ultimately the discussions we’re having, these brands and I, aren’t about the brands at all. It’s about me: always about me. And when it comes to me, no flattering deception can be too outrageous. Really, it can’t.
I honestly believe that a vintage Aston would make me sort of James Bondish (early Connery or Craig, certainly not Moore). I believe this, despite the fact that I’m the least suave person in the world and that two Martinis would have me falling asleep and waking up in parts unknown in a pool of my own vomit.
Why? Because Aston Martin, like so many other successful brands, flatters to deceive. Of course, it’s not just the expensive stuff: energy drinks, supermarket-aisle cosmetics and countless others trade off this kind of thinking all the time.
Sure they’re lies. But they’re lies like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are lies: deep down we know we’re being played, but we’re having so much fun with it, we don’t dare dig too deeply lest the grand deception ends. So no-one in this wonderful business of deceptive flattery should feel bad about what they do, because every adult consumer is complicit and everyone knows the rules.
And besides, it’s way more fun being the devil than being God