Stuff We Really Want vs. Stuff That’s Sold to Us

Photo by Ben Neale on Unsplash

It was back when the SUV that pseudo station wagon truck, became so popular, maybe the early 2000s, that I began to realize just how much marketing has to do with selling us stuff. Over and over again I heard and read that the reason d’etre for the unsafe, fuel hogging vehicle was because the “customer demands them.”

I didn’t believe it then and today I’m convinced the statement, “the customer demands” is a lie, and a damaging one. Obviously, this isn’t a new thought for me and many others. It is worth examining yet again I think.

Of SUVs and razor blades

The desire for SUVs was and still is a creation of the marketing department of the automobile industry. Why? Because, according to an article in Atlantic, referring to Keith Bradsher’s High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV, the SUV’s were classified as light trucks, allowing manufacturers to avoid many of the rules about safety and gas economy that passenger cars face. Selling vehicles that get around safety and gas economy rules means more profit, significantly more profit.

The article, titled Why Crossovers Conquered the American Highway says it simply enough. The message that sold was, and still is, that SUV drivers are dashing explorers, prone to wonderful adventures in far away places. That’s a much more interesting image than that of a family car. The idea of driving from whatever urban or suburban area you live in to wide open spaces and maybe even crossing streams and reaching the mountain peak proved irresistible to many and that’s no surprise. Never mind you don’t have the time or maybe even the interest to really explore the wide open spaces. It’s the image, the idea that somehow owning an SUV will make you and your life more interesting that hooks you or, if not you, enough folks so profits roll in.

Or take disposable razors. In this country, according to a startling video by Evelyn Harrison called The History and Environmental Impact of Disposable Razors, we dispose of 2 billion so-called disposable razors! The history of the disposable razor which started with the so called disposable blade is fascinating, and probably set the stage for disposable everything.

Advertisers decide the stuff we really want!

The trailer of a proposed film called, How Does Advertising Affect Wants & Needs? brilliantly sums up how advertising works. Doubt that? Think about any ad you’ve seen lately. Chances are it showed what all of us really want — family, love, happiness, clean air, adventure, comfort, etc.

Once they established the longing in the story advertisers tell us, they then link up a product or service in a way that assures us if we only buy that, we will have the other. Thus, in a very real way, the buyer of an SUV is really convinced it’s exactly what she needs to get out of a rut and have an adventure. Those who buy disposal razors are sold on the convenience and assured the razor will make them more lovable. Even products that do real harm to the environment and to people like RoundUp® are sold by making us afraid of weeds and hooking a weed-free garden with relaxation and prestige.

Prove it to yourself

Next time you see an ad and you realize you’re thinking “ah, I’d like to have that,” dig a little deeper and ask yourself “Why do I want that? What need does it really fulfill?” Chances are you’ll find it’s not the product so much as the feeling the advertisers want us to believe we’ll have as a result the purchase.

A personal example: I sucked in on buying a rather peculiar vegetable peeler… it’s a cylinder about 6 inches high consisting of two pieces, one screwing into the other. (The image on the left.) There are various shaped notches in the thing, each with a formed plastic blade. I think I paid $5 for it telling myself I’d finally get more carrots and zucchini into my system if I could easily turn them into shavings. Why I thought owning this thing would make me eat more vegetables isn’t clear, but that’s what I told myself. It’s now sitting on a shelf gathering dust. It’s also a product that isn’t recyclable, cost who knows how much in slave labor and water (I’m guessing, but it’s probably a good guess.) It’s a drain on the planet anyway you look at it.

Take back your power

When we’re successfully sold something we don’t really need or even really want, we’re giving away our power. On the other hand when the desire to buy some new product or service occurs, we can take back our power by looking at the desire a bit before we commit the money.

It’s not that we’re wrong for wanting stuff — to some degree that seems to truly be human nature. We love beauty, and ease, and good food, and clothes and homes. These can add to happiness which is the stuff we really want. Too much stuff leads to waste. It pulls at us and creates conundrums like how much stuff we have in storage.

Becoming more conscious of what we’re buying is the way to take back our power from advertisers. It’s only a start, but it’s a good one.

Love, blessings and abundance,

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Originally published at

Writer, life and writing coach, book ghostwriter, Grandmother, Buddhist. Liberal who listens to the other side, political

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