Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting*
*Gaslighting, if you don’t know the word, is defined as manipulation into doubting your own sanity; as in, Carl made Mary think she was crazy, even though she clearly caught him cheating. He gaslit her.
Pretty soon, as the country begins to figure out how we “open back up” and move forward, very powerful forces will try to convince us all to get back to normal. (That never happened. What are you talking about?) Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising, messaging, and television and media content to make you feel comfortable again. It will come in the traditional forms — a billboard here, a hundred commercials there — and in new-media forms: a 2020–2021 generation of memes to remind you that what you want again is normalcy. In truth, you want the feeling of normalcy, and we all want it. We want desperately to feel good again, to get back to the routines of life, to not lie in bed at night wondering how we’re going to afford our rent and bills, to not wake to an endless scroll of human tragedy on our phones, to have a cup of perfectly brewed coffee and simply leave the house for work. The need for comfort will be real, and it will be strong. And every brand in America will come to your rescue, dear consumer, to help take away that darkness and get life back to the way it was before the crisis. I urge you to be well aware of what is coming.
For the last hundred years, the multibillion-dollar advertising business has operated based on this cardinal principle: Find the consumer’s problem and fix it with your product. When the problem is practical and tactical, the solution is “as seen on TV” and available at Home Depot. Command strips will save me from having to repaint. So will Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. Elfa shelving will get rid of the mess in my closet. The Ring doorbell will let me see who’s on the porch if I can’t take my eyes off Netflix. But when the problem is emotional, the fix becomes a new staple in your life, and you become a lifelong loyalist. Coca-Cola makes you: happy. A Mercedes makes you: successful. Taking your family on a Royal Caribbean cruise makes you: special. Smart marketers know how to highlight what brands can do for you to make your life easier. But brilliant marketers know how to rewire your heart. And, make no mistake, the…