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Why did you buy an SUV and not a mini van? Why did you stay at a "chateau" on vacation and not a hotel? Why do you drink Fat Tire Amber Ale and not Zima? Why did you buy organic hand soap on-line and not the Kroger brand?


So says Seth Godin in his latest book All Marketers Are Liars. In his practical guide to marketing everything - politicians, cars, glasses, music and even church - Seth is very candid and seems not to even realize how profound he's being.

While the book is about marketing, for instance, it's revealed that marketing is inextricably bound to sociology. The way people think and behave and believe determines how they're sold ideas and things. While explaining this Seth, seemingly by accident, detonates a bomb of a sociological thought that's been echoing in my brain for days.

Tell me if this doesn't ring true to you:

  • PEOPLE SHOPPING TO SATISFY A TRUE NEED don't care about packaging, style or the pitch. If they're thirsty they drink what's wet. If they're hungry they eat what's available. If they're cold they take what's warm. The needy care about the facts: wet, food, warm.

  • OUR NEEDS ARE MET in the U.S. There are very very few people here, and none reading this blog right now, who truly have unmet physical needs.

  • WHEN PEOPLE HAVE NO NEEDS the job of the marketer is to exploit and create our limitless wants.

  • MEETING WANTS IS ABOUT FEELING, NOT FACTS. People in want don't care about the facts of the product as much has how it makes them feel. Cause a product to create the right feeling in a person and they'll lie to themselves and rationalize their product choices - creating "facts" to support them even.

    Why did you buy an SUV, he asks, when a mini van causes less damage to the environment, is safer for children, uses less gas, costs less, does less damage to roadways, takes up less space, and is less likely to injure the driver and other motorists in a collision? Why? It made you feel something you wanted to feel. Tough? Wealthy? Successful? Big? Not like a taxi driver? It felt good to drive something not everyone could afford? Maybe, I concede. Definitely, Seth insists. The choice makes no sense on a practical factual level. It was a choice made on feelings.

    Or how about Soy milk. I drink it. I buy it. It's found in the refrigerated section of my store. Why? Soy milk doesn't spoil. Until it's opened it doesn't need refrigeration - and there's some debate among my friends as to whether or not it EVER needs to be refrigerated. But cold milk makes me feel like I'm buying something fresh and refreshing. That's what I want to feel. The scientific facts don't matter. My feeling redefines reality.

    Seth asserts and proves thoroughly in his book, though it's not the point of his book, that people like you and me with wants and no needs care more about how stuff makes us feel than we do about the facts. Style over substance. Feelings first.

    Before we snarl from atop our high horses and wag our fingers at SUV drivers and soy milk drinkers consider this - I am:









    My point isn't that any of these choices we've made are "wrong" but that, in my own life at least, they've been made in part or totally based on what I want to feel and not on the facts. I have more thoughts on this, truly paradigm shattering thoughts, but for now I want to know what you think. (How's that make you feel?) Is this theory/law of Seth's correct? Is it true for you? Should we not factor our feelings into our choices at all? How much should the facts/reality be part of our important and not-so-important decisions?

    (Special thanks to Matthew Smith and his marketing genius wife Alice for turning me onto Seth's writing.)

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    Feelings are what result from an interaction of my beliefs with the world. They can be a fantastic guide to discovering what you believe (Prov 20:5).

    I've some rambling words on this point in my blogki.

    Blogger Mustard Packet Pelter said...

    Food is food. I'll eat whatever you set down in front of me.

    Actually I haven't really voted yet. I'm registered I just kinda forget to go and do it.

    Me fashionable? Are you kidding? I wear t-shirts and wal-mart jeans happily almost every day. Fashionable? Yeahhh right.

    Right now I'm just trying to get back to my roots.

    Because I didn't have any at the time and we just kinda clicked.

    Because it's my parents house.

    Ahhh now this one is a good one. Why am I going to Toccoa Falls? Well it's a nice small Christian campus that has my major.

    Because I have to get my Shaun Groves fix every day.

    Blogger Brody Harper said...

    Mmmmm milk sounds good right now. Shaun are you manipulating my feelings?

    Seriously... good thoughts. I don't really want to answer all those questions, but I have been wondering those same things a lot lately....

    i have realized that it's all to teach us to play make believe.

    Anonymous Sue said...

    My head hurts from thinking about this. Every answer I start ends up sounding defensive. But thanks for making me think. I'm a new reader ... just since I ran into you at Estes last week, and so I've never been to ikon... don't even know what it is. Yet I find myself wistful that the last one is over. Talk about being easily influenced!

    Anonymous euphrony said...

    I'd like to say that I'm immune to this sort of feelings-based marketing - too intellectual and aware to be caught in such foolishness. But I'm not. I only have to go as far as considering the child-safety buys my wife and I have made, things that I grew up safely without, to realize I'm motivated by feelings. When we have the disposable income and the idea of better safe than sorry, we, like most people, buy. But we did get the mini-van, and love it.

    Blogger Mark said...

    It makes perfect sense to me.

    Once, I'd been hiking in the heat for a couple of hours with nothing to drink. All that was left to drink when I got to the car was warm cola. Nothing has ever tasted so good to me.

    Since then, I haven't been able to drink cola of any kind again. I hate how it tastes. I can drink root beer and 7 Up and its cloans, but I hate cola.

    Sounds to me like when I had a need I could take it but since I haven't had that problem since, I'm going back to wants.

    Blogger Amy said...

    Good thoughts and interesting stuff to think about. I think it's all about "culture" and "upbringing." I admit that I make feelings based impulse buys all the time. Why did I buy an ipod, when I have CDs and a radio I can listen to whenever and pretty much wherever I want to? Why do I buy the name brand foods (like General Mills, Kellogs, Kraft) when the generic tastes the same (most of the time) and is cheaper?

    I can't answer all of those questions you asked yet, but I can say that we in America are brought up to "want stuff." Especially stuff we don't need. I've discovered that I have way more "stuff" than I need to live. My needs are always met because I have a steady income, but I still have "wants." The reason that we in America have so much marketing is because we're a captialist nation. Money drives our economy, when the economy is good, we feel good. Do you realize that there are tons of people that watch the stock market everyday? They live to see what those changes are going to be? WHAT A WASTE OF VALUABLE TIME? (that's my opinion...I hope I didn't offend anyone there)

    I have a hard time with this marketing culture because I realize that there are lots of people in the world that would love to have 1/100th of the money I have. And, I don't have lots of money, especially when you factor in my debt. But, credit cards and loans are a way of life in America. We all try to live above our means. Why is that? Is it because of marketing? I don't have answers to these questions...just throwing them out there.

    I wonder how this relates to our Christian walk as well? Would God want us to have all of these feeling based decisions? God gave us these feelings, but aren't some people manipulating the other people in this world? Wow, ok, gotta ponder these things some more.

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    I wonder how this relates to our Christian walk as well? Would God want us to have all of these feeling based decisions? God gave us these feelings, but aren't some people manipulating the other people in this world?

    To me, the important question behind those is why did God gives us feelings in the first place? If we believe they aren't very useful, just a spiritual appendix, then we tend to lean towards answers that disengage us from our emotions.

    But, as I posted above, I believe our feelings are very useful.

    Blogger Amy said...

    I definitely believe our feelings are important! I don't think we can rely soley upon them, but they should definitely be factored into decision making.
    I think all the choices and marketing we have makes for a very stressful life. I mean, you go out to eat or to the grocery store and you have about a million decisions to make what kind of food to get. If you want to watch tv, there are a million shows competing for your attention. I don't think we realize it, but this sensory and information overload is quite stressful.
    Oh and soy milk? Lactose intolerance is my reason! Plus I hate milk.
    but, yes, I buy based on feeling a lot. I buy to distract my mind from everyday life. (thank you shopping addiction!!)
    But you know, let's say I have a choice on what to eat. I can have a hamburger or a turkey sandwich. The hamburger sounds tasty, but I know the turkey is better for me. If I choose the turkey, doesn't it still come down to feeling? Like, feeling healthy? Just wondering.

    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    I guess it would help to define feelings. It's not just the warm fuzzies, it's also things like feeling "valued" or "successful" or "pretty." If I buy a car because it makes me feel tough or better than you or I sponsor a child because it makes me feel less guilty about having so much stuff are THOSE kinds of feelings always good? That's a different kind of "feeling" isn't it?

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    are THOSE kinds of feelings always good?

    I think the feelings themselves are amoral. It's the beliefs they reflect that have to be judged.

    The trick is (1) even realizing I bought this car because it makes me feel tough (2) translating "makes me feel tough" into a core belief.

    Do the diagnostic work first, then you've got something (or usually many somethings) that can be judged good or bad against God's word.

    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    Seth calls this "core belief" a "world view."

    I agree. The two are connected.

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    translating "makes me feel tough" into a core belief

    ... which could look something like this.

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    I mean, like this. (Previous link required a login, sorry).

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    I agree. The two are connected.

    Yeup, I think so.

    Anonymous Stephen said...

    There is an Op-Ed in today's New York Times titled "Package Tracking" that starts out "Most of us know that the pleasure of shopping isn’t the actual owning. It’s the anticipation of owning. Case in point: Recently, I made an ordinary online purchase — lots of research, a Web-page receipt, and an e-mail confirmation. But then I noticed there was no package-tracking number in the e-mail, no 18-digit number that looks like someone’s idea of the perfect password. The package came on time — a day early, in fact. But I was sorry I didn’t get to watch it on its travels.

    Package tracking is a perfect marriage of high technology and consumer psychology."

    Blogger GrovesFan said...

    WHY DO I EAT WHAT I EAT? Because I like the taste!

    WHY DO I VOTE THE WAY I DO? I try to pay careful attention to the candidates and their platforms. It's difficult to sift through the "bull," but necessary. I vote for who I believe to be the best person for the job.

    WHY ARE YOU FASHIONABLE? I'll have to go with "Godzilla" on this one. I define fashion as "anything clean." I'm definitely a shorts and t-shirt type in the summer and jeans or sweats in the winter.

    WHY ARE YOU LISTENING TO WHAT YOU ARE LISTENING TO? Because I like it and it sure beats the radio!

    WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE FRIENDS YOU HAVE? Mostly because of something we have in common. My very best friend is also an Air Force wife. We have kids the same ages and share a lot of the same ideals. We know we can always count on each other.

    WHY DO YOU LIVE IN A SPACE THAT SIZE? Because we lived in a VERY small home in England and thought when we returned to the States that we needed more space. Now I'm not convinced "more is better." It's harder to keep clean and our family spends less time together in the same room.

    .....COLLEGE? I attended three different ones in obtaining my BA. The first because it was close and affordable. The second to fulfill a dream of my mom's. Big mistake and huge waste of money. The third the same as the first.

    .....READ THIS BLOG? Because I'm a die-hard fan and can't go very long without my Shlog fix. I like the way you make me think about things, even when it hurts!

    Anonymous Rich Kirkpatrick said...

    I think he is right on. What does this mean for ministry then? (Since I am a church leader, I think this way). What people attribute to their church is the same. How do I feel about the pastor? Is the music guy fitting my vibe? Going to church, especially the emerging set, is seeing church more and more about feelings and less and less about the hard road of discipleship, community and mission. Church will not survive this if we play into the culture of wants instead of needs too much. But, it is our culture, and you cannot minister in America without giving people some of what they want. Right?

    Blogger Kathryn said...

    sometimes i'm struck by the emptiness of it all. .there are wares and there are a billion peddlars and I can't escape them. the endless commercials, the print ads, the highway billboards, the newspaper ads, the magazine ads. I want to scream and tell them all to stop bombarding me with all these images set to quirky/cool songs, skillfully photographed, psychologically manipulating propaganda. i feel like a snake in a basket and they're playing my song. . I feel played. .it makes me angry - yet when i'm in that position to purchase, i feel like i may choose what i've been 'programmed' to choose! grrrr. . .

    Anonymous Chris Morris said...

    Going to church, especially the emerging set, is seeing church more and more about feelings and less and less about the hard road of discipleship, community and mission. Church will not survive this if we play into the culture of wants instead of needs too much.

    I may not be clear here, I'm fighting with my words, and I may be taking liberties with yours ... ... but I think we need to be addressing their feelings without indulging them. If we present faith in Christ as an either-or proposition between feelings and discipleship, we may needlessly turn some away. I seek to fully integrate my feeling heart into my faith.

    *sigh* -- there are plenty of times where I must just suck it up, do the faith in spite of my feelings. But that doesn't turn me from my goal of integrating the concepts. Jesus certainly seemed a feeling, passionate man. His ideal is not a sterile "brains only" invitation.

    I just want some sort of message along the lines of, "Bring us your feelings, your passions. We will not accommodate them at face value, but if you strive to dig deeper into what's driving those feelings and stick it out with us, we can accommodate each other."

    /That's/ sure to turn many away. :-) But maybe some would stay, and those that do could be very effective.

    You don't like the music/pastor/liturgy? What needs to change? You dig. Dig with our people - find out that there are larger issues at play. Maybe you'll uncover some deficient hearts leading to crummy music. Maybe you'll uncover a deficient heart in yourself that will learn to be more patient with the music you hate.

    Dunno. Ramble off...

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    This is actually something I was just thinking about the past couple of weeks. This isn't just limited to marketing, though.

    The fact is that ALL of our preferences are based on what we like to feel. Period.

    Feelings are why we listen to music and prefer one style over another. Feelings are why we decide we like one movie and hate the other. Life is about feelings.

    That's how people work, and I don't think there's anything inhearantly "exploitive" about people in marketing understanding this fact.

    I actually like marketing. Why? Because it gives me good feelings! ;)

    Blogger Shaun Groves said...

    Rich, I'd argue it's not the "emerging set" primarily. You may not like the way the emerging folks make you feel but I know from experience leading in more than one kind of church that all kinds of churches market to their members.

    **TRADITIONAL CHURCH: When we say we're keeping hymns and organs in and guitars out (a cliche example I know) SOMETIMES we're saying to those with a traditional world view: You'll feel constancy here, safe here, in a scary world that is changing quickly. EXAMPLE: A senior citizen minister at my church years ago sat in a worship planning meeting in which we were discussing the worship music style controversy we were going through at the time. He helped us all see the perspective of the traditional older folks like him. "Imagine," he said, "your spouse has passed away, your friends are going too, you don't understand the words being spoken too quickly on the television these days, there's no music you enjoy on the radio, you're out of touch and you know it and it's scary because you don't have a place that sounds and thinks and acts like you any more. To make matters worse you learn slower, read slower, sing slower. Everything has changed and keeps changing and you can't keep up. The one place you want to feel safe is your church. The one place where the subject never changes and you can keep up is the church on Sunday. And now that's gone too." I felt what they felt when he spoke. And I understood the importance of those people feeling safe and like some things never change. Traditional churches, in this sense, are marketing to their members by cultivating a feeling of stability in their members (not all of which are old of course).

    **BOOMER CHURCH: Willow Creek, Saddleback, The People's Church (where I go to church) are run by aging boomers and growing numbers of yuppies in their late twenties. They are more affluent, more trendy, more likely to own an SUV and live in the suburbs and only seven percent of them give to their church on a regular basis. They are less likely to attend church regularly, more likely to come and go as they want. Less likely to serve in the church or community. Less likely to give. This age group spends more on staying and looking young - and pretty and cool - than other generations before and after. They eat antidepressants for breakfast, don't "go deep" for long, have an allergy to Greek and Hebrew and anything old and they have a world view called consumerism: Give me what I want the way I want it right now...and make it easy. And these churches SOMETIMES market themselves - I think without realizing it - to their members as "not religious" (translation: no rules, no sacrifice, this will be a breeze for you) and "exciting/energetic/entertaining/engaging" (translation: this is a perpetually happy place where you can think happy thoughts and take a vacation from your life" and "accessible" (translation: even the dumbest laziest least committed person will like this..as long as they like stuff for dumb uncommitted people I guess.) EXAMPLE: My daughter's going to take art from a teacher using a local church building. I went to the church site for directions and saw this right off: "God is in a good mood! And He's here every Sunday!" There were lots of exclamation marks and talk of God being "here", implying He's not in your depressing life outside of this building. And lots of exclamation marks and use of the words "good", "exciting" and "fun" and even "non-religious."

    **EMERGENT: No one agrees on what this word even means - it's too new - but by it some folks are referring to churches or ministries led by pastors of my generation and younger. We market to feelings too. We market sometimes to those who want to feel countercultural - like they're not like the annoying self-absorbed Boomers in their community. We market to those who want to feel "different" or "progressive" and of course wind up attracting a crowd of people who are identical in their desire to fell different and progressive - ironic. We market to the politically frustrated by telling them they can make more of a difference doing than voting. We market to those who want to feel smarter than their parents by bashing what their parents have done and believed. We market to those who want to feel connection and family by reminding them that their part of a legacy that is ancient called the Church. We market to those who crave "authenticity" (whatever that means) by not having a script for our services and making mistakes and not reading our sermons perfectly. We market. EXAMPLE: Bebo Norman is not a pastor but he's popular on the college music scene. He tells the same stories every night, stutters in the same places and even makes the same mistakes telling them. And I love it. It feels "real" because it sounds unrehearsed and unproduced. Part of his delivery is habit. How much is marketing?

    Good or bad, we all do this. If you don't think you do, I wonder if you've bought your own marketing. If someone else's marketing seems more obvious to you I wonder if it's just because it doesn't match your world view - so you aren't buying it. I wonder if a traditional church pastor will see the marketing to feelings at Willow Creek before he sees his own, for example.

    Blogger Brody Harper said...

    My favorite part:

    "Good or bad, we all do this. If you don't think you do, I wonder if you've bought your own marketing."


    Anonymous Rich Kirkpatrick said...

    Emerging makes me feel great! I love it. But, my point was misconstrued since I am too non-linear and IQ-impaired.

    When I say "emerging" I really meant that things are far worse for the those coming of age right now (12-24). So, forget emerging in the sense of all those books, candles and gotees etc. Style of ministry is one thing, but I am talking about age in particular. The list you gave makes sense, but things really are more complex when you are in the thick of leading a church. Nothing is so easy to label, even Saddleback. So, lets forget labels about churches and focus on the point of feelings.

    Those coming of age are the most marketed to in history and are second and third generation marketed. And, they are the least reached people group in America.

    So, I am not comparing the various models except to make a point that this issue is at its height with those who are younger. I am GenX, so I do not know what that means except that I do not relate to boomers as well as they would like me to (I really do like how the younger stuff is more than you assume). Church has never marketed me and has not reached me (if you research this group is absent in the pews). We have missed the GenXers since they are more racially diverse, and not boomers.

    Now, the post-boomer Yers and younger (my kids) are at least being marketed to. (Boomers love their kids.) And, I think it is about time. We did not reach my peers, but my kids and those a bit older at least are being noticed by more and more churches in America.

    My current church is attempting to reach accross generations. So, we have a multi-generations but in groups that are not really in the same room. However, at least it seems to work to give folks a bit of what they think they need. Another note, I live and have lived in some of the most "unchurched" areas in the nation--Northern California. So, for us out here there are not as many options of churches as one would think and the culture is hostile to the idea of church for the most part. (I am shocked when I visit other areas of the nation and see churches on every corner...wow).

    So, like I said, we HAVE to market. Not lie, but at least address what people feel. (Like one commenter pointed out--not indulge). I just hope that we are careful not to call marketing success ministry success but instead measure from biblical standards. How are we becoming more like Jesus?

    Does that make anyone feel any better?


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