A Sunday Sermon about Sin
On this, the day of rest, instead of resting I’m going to share with you a talk I wrote nearly 10 years ago. Well, just the general gist of the talk, really, because I don’t have the notes anymore and it never lived as a PowerPoint extravaganza. The talk was about the seven deadly sins – and how they are the main motivators for consumers. I’m not condoning the wickedness of mankind – I’m just pointing out that if you’re looking to persuade people, you could do worse than use these as a guide.
Let’s go through them one by one.
People want more. It’s human nature. Getting more shit for your cash is pretty motivating. And it’s used a fair amount in infomercials. “Not only do you get this battery operated onion peeler for £3.99 – but if you order right now, we’ll send you 6 of them plus this charming inflatable frying pan and this limited edition all-terrain sock drawer organiser.” Alternatively, reduce the price. More stuff for the cash or less cash for the stuff. Your choice.
People are lazy buggers. Well, I am anyway. Bring the stuff to me. Or make it simpler for me to buy. Or fill out the forms for me. Or reduce the number of clicks to find something on your website. Or show me something that cleans with less scrubbing. Or – I can’t be arsed writing more examples. You can also make things seem easier by chunking the steps into a smaller number. Three vague steps will always seem simpler than eighteen specific ones. “Just fill out a short form, pay the money and a British passport is all yours.” And use less words. Unlike me.
If people are looking for status symbols, they’re just asking to be ripped off. There’s a great story about how Rolls Royce used to brag about selling the most expensive car in the world. Another car manufacturer came along with a more expensive model. So Rolls Royce just put the price up. They didn’t even change the product. Sometimes people just want others to know that they spent a lot of money on stuff. That’s why expensive designer clothes have such big, crass, ugly fecken logos on them. And the ironic thing is that the people who want this overpriced crap are usually not the ones who actually have money. The whole thing is screwed up. But expensive shit is attractive.
Sex sells. We all know that. Adverts for fashion, cosmetics, gyms, diet products and cosmetic surgery all promise to make you more attractive to potential lovers. The truth is – if you’re already a minger they probably won’t succeed in bagging you someone on the front cover of vogue. But people love to fantasise about the possibility.
People want to have what others have. Actually, they want to have more than others have. This sin is not just about being envious of what others have – it’s about wanting others to be envious of what you have. And it’s not just about material possessions. People are jealous of others having more fun, more sex, more confidence, better hair, a more attractive partner and better behaved kids. The grass is always greener. And those Joneses need to be brought down a peg or two. This is an ugly motivator – but an amazingly powerful one.
We’re not just talking about food here. People want more, more, more. It seems that consumerism has become an addiction. If the entire world was to consume at the same rate as America, it would take more than five earths to supply the resources. One of the fastest growing industries in recent years is storage. People are continually buying shit, don’t have room for it in their homes and need somewhere to store it. We have porn addicts, obesity, cosmetic surgery addicts, Imelda Marcos shoe-syndrome, gambling addicts and people stockpiling interior design magazines. People can’t get enough stuff.
Sometimes people spend money in reaction to something else. They drink Carling because they don’t want to be seen as one of those Stella wankers. They’re with Vodafone because they had a terrible customer service experience with T-Mobile. They read the Guardian because they don’t want to be seen as one of the arseholes that reads The Times. They buy a Mac because they had such hassle with their last PC. Being the alternative to something awful can be great positioning.
People are flawed. They’re guided by ugly motivations. If that’s something you want to deny, then feel free to drop out of society and retire to a monastery.
Otherwise, welcome fellow sinner