This link: ‘Handbags won’t make you happy‘ is the latest example of Tom Ford’s futile and schizophrenic attempt to convince us that buying expensive designer stuff is not the way to true happiness and enlightenment. Satisfaction is not the aim of all this branding, designing, buying and selling. In fact, the one thing that commerce fears is the truly satisfied consumer. Individual brands and companies will always claim that this is their aim. This might be true in the short term, but in the long term and collectively a satisfied consumer is their most appalling nightmare, their nemesis. A satisfied consumer will not want to buy, replace, upgrade, download or engage.
This instinct to continually improve is an obvious product of our evolutionary drive. Things can always be better. We believe this because, in material terms, it is utterly true. I’ve no doubt that cave-dwelling humans were always looking for a better cave, a better axe head, a better hunting ground or a better mate. This was a question of survival, and this unerring instinct has led us to where we are today. It has driven us to build cities and planes and democracies and computers. For us, or for those of us lucky to be comfortable and divorced from the trials of nature or poverty, it is no longer about survival: it is about increasing our comfort, increasing our divorce from nature and the harsh realities that much of the world has to grapple with. As such, our reasons for continual improvement have become increasingly trivial: faster computers, faster planes, faster ways of shopping, really nicely designed pens, very, very slim phones, very, very big-screened phones, a really lovely handbag etc.
The essential truth is that we live according to a cult of dissatisfaction bound up in the hope that products will eventually make us happier and more fulfilled – is fully understood and ruthlessly exploited by the marketer, the advertising executive, the product developer, the retailer and the credit providers. Many of us depend on this accelerating cycle of consumption for our employment, so perhaps we shouldn’t be too judgmental…
The fact remains that encouraged dissatisfaction lies at the heart of modern consumerism. It relies on a vision of a promised land, a better you, a Nirvana. Think again about the world of the advert. The perfect you, the better, new and improved life is always just around the corner, but we never seem to get round the corner. Consumption can help us live our lives and it can be fun, but it can become an obsession or at the very least a distraction activity.
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