Everything is a Sales Pitch, so the Disappearance of Greatness is Probably Our Fault

Everything is a sales pitch. All the content you read, the shows and movies you watch, the music you listen to… Even the church service you attend and the political campaign you endorse. Everything is a sales pitch. Everyone is trying to sell you something. Everything conforms to a marketing strategy. And it’s probably your fault.

We have all demanded that anything that aspires to take up our time must prove immediately that it has some value to us. That’s all good and fine, but the main problem is that most of us have no idea how to discern real long term value, most of us regularly choose mediocre or downright shoddy things over against their far better (and sometimes cheaper) competitors, and many times the best things in life require that we mature before we can appreciate them.

Take Starbucks. Starbucks makes bad coffee. They charge a premium price for what they call “premium” coffee, and you believe it’s premium simply because you don’t know any better. You assume a five-dollar cup of coffee is must be worth five dollars. Even when it isn’t. And as long as Starbucks reins supreme as the premium coffee king, you won’t ever know any better. Because Starbucks will be all you ever know.

The tragedy is that a very simple and uncomplicated search on Trip Advisor would probably bring up two or three local coffee shops in your area that have better coffee, friendlier service, a better atmosphere, and cheaper prices. And, on top of that, you’d be supporting some local area families rather than a multi-national conglomerate that regularly supports causes you say you hate.

So why do you go to Starbucks instead? Or McDonald’s? Or Wal-Mart? Because they’re convenient. They’re familiar. And they’re consistent. In other words, we are lazy, cowardly, and conformist. We are by necessity conformist because most of us don’t know how to discern good and bad. We are lazy because we aren’t willing to do the work to learn how to discern good from bad. And we are cowardly because we’re not willing to make our own decisions when our community of lemmings is moving elsewise. We should be able to rely on “the experts,” but they sold out a long time ago.So we don’t trust them. We rely on the masses instead. We are a product of the stupid idea that millions of people just can’t be wrong. Yes, they can. They nearly always are.

A price tag helps many people to make value assessments, because money is simple, and we’re all familiar with trading our time for it. If something has a big price tag, we pay it more respect, even if it isn’t objectively worth the money spent. Because, again, we actually have no idea what anything’s worth.

But we think we do, don’t we? We are all so sure our opinions and tastes are the result of rational processes. We believe that what we buy and consume and say and do are an outward expression of who we really are. And we are all sure each of us is a unique non-conformist expressing the tastes, style, and opinions we have assiduously acquired through discreet individual experience and experiment.

No. That’s not true of the majority of people. It’s probably not true of you. Your choices are already pre-selected. Your opinions are pre-fabricated according to a template. Your tastes are pre-decided by a formula. The things you are willing to buy into are made to be marketable. All of them. Because when they aren’t marketable, you don’t buy into them.

In other words, we are the reason local mom and pops shrivel up. We are the reason billions are spent on political campaigns. We are the reason that good, but complex, solutions go unfunded while bad, but simple, boondoggles have their budgets expanded every year. We are the reason churches preach easy lies rather than hard truths. We are the reason candidates are hollow trigger clouds of reflex and emotion rather than conscientious statesmen hashing out nuanced political ideas. We. Because we refuse to do a little research. We refuse to take a little risk. We refuse to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains. We refuse to swallow our pride and listen to people who know better than we do. And we’re equally unwilling to listen to our inner misgivings when the community around is shouting in unison. All the while, we refuse to see past the tip of our iPhones.

You are being marketed at every day, and you probably don’t even realize it. Because advertisements aren’t demarcated anymore. Everything has become sponsored content, and you desparately need to learn to distrust sponsored content. If you don’t, you and all the other millions who likewise mindlessly conform to the wishes of their salesmasters will continue to exclude the very best from the public square. Because the best things are not marketable. Most of them aren’t even able to be sold. They are by nature free, so we think they are worthless. We couldn’t be more wrong.