You know who you are. At least you think you do, although a lot of marketers think they know you even better. And if you are willing to kid yourself or indulge a little, they have what you are looking for.
That’s the main premise of FADS Marketing: Food, Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, and the New Marketing World Order, a new book by Tony Harris. He’s an experienced marketing professional willing to sharing a few of the secrets of the industry in part because they clearly alarm him.
They should alarm you, too. And that’s what makes this relatively short but dense book a quick but incredible read.
If there is one criticism of FADS Marketing it’s that there is almost too much to it. The book is rich with specific examples, analyzed and organized into a gripping narrative that moves the story along. Everything is documented in end notes if you need further study, and there’s a good chance you will. This is a book that will change your lifestyle.
At least, that’s what the author hopes. In many ways, he’s using his marketing savvy to help you make sure that their lifestyle choices are, in fact, your own.
Harris is a writer who is skilled in the conversational English of marketing, and wastes no time getting to the point. Any review of his book is always best in his own voice:
Welcome to the new world. We’re designing it for you, around you, and most of all – in your head. We count on the fact that either you don’t know, or you are indifferent. And if you’re like most people, it’s both.
What FADS Marketing describes is the process by which the comprehensive data culled from new forms of media is used by marketing to build an image of you. It’s not just who you are, but what you aspire to be, even when you give in to the various urges that make you human. It relies on the underlying assumption of a world based on self improvement – if you change your head, you change your life.
Marketing wants to change your head, too. Are those lifestyle choices really yours?
Rather than go into a more detailed “Campaign of Note,” as there are many presented in FADS Marketing, it’s probably easiest to illustrate his point with a simpler example. Snickers has a campaign playing in many forms of media on the theme, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It seems harmless enough, and it’s certainly true. A Snickers can help you get through the day, yes?
But that’s not how it’s presented in their campaign. Snickers is actually an essential part of you, it defines you and how you interact with the world. It’s not that your life is less without their product, it’s that you aren’t even yourself. You’re not indulging a craving, you are simply struggling to be yourself in a world that doesn’t understand or appreciate you. Oh, but they will once you have a Snickers.
There is much, much more to it than that, and FADS Marketing lays this out with rich, specific examples.
As the book progresses, it becomes a bit dark by the time it reaches the chapter on sex. That’s long been used to sell products, certainly, but selling new forms of sex with robots and port is the next wave. Here, marketing preys on the least well defined parts of self image and relationship to the world:
We want to believe we’re more evolved, but at our cores, we still feel confused and overwhelmed. We want to adopt the attitude of thoroughly modern sexually knowledgeable adults, but inside we’re still middle-schoolers. We titter at ads for Cialis because why are those people sitting in separate bathtubs, and sign up for classes about how to talk to our kids about sex.
This isn’t here just for prurient shock value, however. It drives the point home. Marketing today is tapping into the converse of one of the greatest forces in the western world – guilt. It provides not just excuses but active ways of accepting your need to indulge. You become a better you not by your actions or your choices, but by accepting your needs, however carnal, and going forth.
We’ve come a long way from Mister Rogers’ “I like you just the way you are.”
That’s not to say that FADS Marketing is entirely dark, however. This book is presented as a warning, much like George Orwell’s 1984. Harris is not letting you in on the secrets of the industry just to alarm you, but to help you make choices that truly are your own.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents taught you to be aware of the world around you? (Let’s hope so, at least.) One of your earliest lessons was probably, “Look both ways before crossing the street,” and that kind of awareness still applies today. Know your surroundings—I’m talking about the physical world as well as online.
This may seem like a strange thing for a highly skilled professional marketer to advise, but that’s the real power in Harris’ writing. With plain, direct language he is appealing to common sense to create a standard of internal self-improvement and external decency. He recognizes the power that he is tapped into and is clearly alarmed by it. You should be, too.
There are many more ways of looking at this subject by going into marketing trends and capabilities. There is a philosophical argument at the core of this as well as we move into a more market and data driven world. We could discuss at length the issues that come from increasing intimacy without authenticity, a topic covered in this blog in detail. Harris doesn’t get into any of this and sticks to the main point with great clarity.
FADS Marketing is a book for consumers, first and foremost. All of us need to know how we are being targeted so that we do not lose our moral compasses in a flood of highly invasive marketing. You go ahead, be you, but make sure that you aren’t someone else’s version of you. They really do think that they know you better than you know yourself. You’re the only one who can resist that.
Note: This is a paid review that was offered to the author after reading the book. I receive offers for paid reviews all the time, but have never taken up any before. This book is worth the exception. It is available in print and on kindle.