“Eiszapfen im Licht”, image from wikipedia
Today I am trying to make sense of the dynamics of advertizing. I am fully aware that this will end up in a rather naive attempt, but whatever – the customer has a right to think. This going to be more an essay then just a blog post.
There was one event in my childhood, which changed the way I was thinking in a quite radical manner. I must have about ten years old.
On roads there exist things like this and as I couldnt find an english word for it I will call them “bar fence”.
It was a sunny day. I was sitting for quite a while on a straight and tinned bar fence. Why I was sitting there for so long – I dont remember. As I was sitting there I suddenly noticed some small icicles which were hanging at the upper bar of the bar fence – right next to me. Usually I rather prefer to let icicles where they are – if you take them then they may break and fall apart. It is a difficult thing to keep them as a whole. But this time I touched them immediately without much thinking.
However I almost fell from the bar due to a strong repulsion: the alleged icicles were not from ice but just some spittle hanging down from the bar. Beaming in the sun.
In addition to this strange perceptional error I suddenly became aware of the fact that I had completely ignored the actuality that it was summer and that it was actually a quite hot day.
This childhood experience was quite shocking for me at that time. I never dared to tell my parents about what happened, although there is nothing terrible in touching icicles and also spittle is something dentists have to deal with every day. However I think there may be also a latent all-societal collective germ phobia in Germany which results not only in clean streets but also paved the way to the most terrible actions. Showers have an absolutely terrifying role in Germany’s history.
But back to the incident.
It was immediately clear to me what had happened, namely: It was a hot day and I wanted to find an immediate coolant and this urge was so strong that I even ignored the most evident logical fact that there are no icicles in summer.
This was very disturbing. I concluded: There was some immediate knowledge in my subconsiousness, which led to actions BEFORE I started thinking AND: while I already started thinking this knowledge had still the power to overcome rational thinking.
The immediate knowledges hidden in our subconciousness (in varying forms) are sometimes referred to e.g as qualia or also as intuition. Lets stick to the word “qualia” as it reminds me of the german word “qual”…:)
I think there are some qualia which are directly linked to evolutionary needs. And these are the strongest. And they may overcome rational thinking. Marketing experts know about this and they use them – sometimes – ruthlessly. Or in other words: despite all my training in logical and rational thinking I still come out of a shop with a shoppping cart which is fuller than I wanted it to be. I even tried to write down all my shopping items on a sheet of paper and went to the shop with the intention to buy only the items on the paper – usually this doesnt work – I still end up with more.
in short: Looking at advertisments and other consumer oriented strategies is a good way towards the understanding of human subconsiousness.
So what are the evolutionary needs marketing experts use in my opinion as an uneducated customer (ordered by importance):
1. NEED: warmth
EVOLUTION: the body needs the right temperature in order to exist.
examples: light (ranging from shop lighting, light displays, flashing lights etc.), If it is cold outside we get to see displays of blankets, beds, cosy rooms etc. if it is hot outside then we are presented with ice cubes, water etc.
2. NEED: food and drink
EVOLUTION: the body needs food and drink in order to exist.
examples: the food products itself, i.e. e.g. the vegetable corner is usually in an exposed place, nicely lighted, (decayed food has to be replaced immediately). There is a whole fotographic branch dedicated to design (fake) good-looking food, food illustrations all over the place.
3. NEED: care
EVOLUTION: children can’t survive on their own if they are too small, they need care, they need to be educated
examples: Cuteness is all over the place. However also Grannys (who play an eminent role in child care) are a popular subject (grandpas not yet so much…), and also e.g. fotographs which display all sorts of amicability like friendship, good neighbourhood etc. as these are essential for sustaining a working ground for care.
4. NEED: reproduction
EVOLUTION: reproduction is necessary for keeping evolution going
examples: all sorts of sexual annotations. violence is sometimes also hooked to reproduction, something which I havent fully understood yet. may be it is because that there is sometimes a certain agressivity necessary in order to dare to approach the other being.
EVOLUTION: the possibility of death is triggering survival.
(And the existence of death can also may be due to the fact that at the moment our earth is too small to sustain all the new organisms, which are set into the world in order to accomodate for the constant change which is in evolution.)
examples: death is usually only directly under display in the butcher shop. Another incarnation of death is violence, accounting for the fight for survival. violence is a popular item in shops, ranging from the display of violent young men with guns (which mix with the reproduction needs), fotographs of war and fight to loud yellling voices in shop announcements. Usually death is used to raise the buyers attention, to raise agressivity.
And now comes a highly highly speculative part in my blog-essay: One can notice that there is another field that is used in advertising campains for which I am not completely sure what the corresponding NEED is (if any). I like to call it:
6. NEED: transformation
EVOLUTION: this is very very slippy terrain, but: evolution may need a code for working.
This is definitely not necessarily a Lamarckists or creationists point of view. It rather suggests that there might be an evolutionary selection process on ideas/functions of “how mankind could evolve”. It could be that some ideas find their way into peoples subconciousness and that by that process evolutionary developments in certain directions are more probable than into others. And that hereby the steering of evolution is done by the collective. In terms of genetic algorithms this means that the fitness function is formed by the collective and implanted into human subconsiousness (which would be still in the sense of Charles Darwin) and thus I would like to call it “survival of the fittest“-function.
It MAY BE that in this way – similar to the DNA in human bodies or – as already said – the “fitness” function in genetic algorithms – evolution can encode its own transformation laws.
examples: Our current evolutionary transformation laws can – to my opinion – be viewed in rather recent marketing actions and also in the products themselves (acting as their own marketing) they are: the “man/machine transformation”” and “man leaves earth transformation”.
The idea of transformation itself is mostly reflected in religious, esotheric or other ritualistic items, as religions do not only try to deal with the transformation of the living versus the dead body but also with perceptional changes of mind, like enlightment etc. Drugs have a similar role. Items (books etc.) which relate to intellect also have this role (also if the word enlightment uses two different words in german: Erleuchtung (spiritual enlightment) and Aufklärung (intellectual enlightment)). Also Fashion allows for a modest self-transformation (I come back to fashion later).
The “man/machine transformation” manifests itself e.g. in wearable and implanted electronics, new computer devices, robots, displays of cyborgs, and all gadgets and events which are related to the cyber industry.
The “man leaves earth transformation” is incorporated in e.g. illustrations of space ships, space, stars, space wars, science fiction etc. However since space exploration needs a lot of human ressources, care and reproduction has to be enforced which is reflected e.g. in a growing libertinage in displaying sexual content, campaigns for higher birth rates in western countries, faint birth control campaigns in countries with a high birth rate, and this extends also to taboo-breaking campaigns like old women holding hands with young man (like e.g. in here) reflecting new progress in reproductive medicine. Also speaking for the life extension argument: the famous AIDS campaign of Benetton, reflecting the fast development of medicine for curing deathly diseases such as AIDS, cancer etc. Also the growing diversity in fashion is I think linking to the possibilitiy to create multiple personalities in multiplayer environments (like secondlife or WoW), yes may be even the green food markets and campaigns and the health warnings on cigarette packages (and the tobacco ban itself) can be seen in this way, i.e. as producing more life.
So why do I not refer to all these things just as “a probable evolutionary paradigma”, why am I interested to connect them to marketing? Now we come back to the begininning of the essay: Because it may be that the use of all these new transformation paradigma in the advertizing business is an indication that all these new transformations have found their way in our subconscious as evolutionary “qualia” – the DNA of evolution (if we exagerate a bit…:))
I guess people in the advertising business have similar thoughts.
Remark: the role of music in advertisement is too complicated for me so I left it out.
some current links in the art-science-tech community which just come to my head and which are related to the above:
–new Yorks art-bots opening today!