“Marketing 3.0″/”holistic branding”/”spiritual marketing”, or by whatever name it goes by, is positioning itself as a form of mass psychotherapy. I suppose that is inevitable when drawing upon the models of psychiatric technique and clinical psychology — Freud, Jung, Adler or Maslow, etc. If Nietzsche held that “man is the sick animal”, and sick because of loss of wholeness (which is Jean Gebser’s “deficiency” or Charles Taylor’s “the malaise of modernity“, and also Buddhist sociologist David Loy’s interpretations of the sense of “lack”), brand advertising now pretends that it can be therapeutic, and that consumerism can be the royal road to personal and collective fulfillment — as self-realisation. This seems to be one of the most important (perhaps even the most important) aspect of “technocratic shamanism”.
Back in 2009, Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, courted derision and aroused incredulity with his claim that Goldman Sachs was “Doing God’s Work“.
It retrospect, it seems that most people mistook his actual meaning in saying that. Ironically, it’s true. Capitalism 3.0 is positioning itself as a religion. This is, I think, that essential “fraud” in all contemporary brand advertising that Michael Schudson recognised and acknowledged in his Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion, but couldn’t quite identify. “Marketing 3.0” and Capitalism 3.0 can hardly be different, after all. When Tom Frank penned his book One Market Under God, he really did touch upon the issue of Capitalism 3.0 — the deliberate and conscious programme of mystification to sacralise and divinise corporate power and power relations in the twenty-first century.
In the course of my studies of the history of branding, as part of my attempt to contextualise the meaning of this strange critter called “marketing 3.0”, I’ve noticed that there has been a shift in the meaning of the word “marketing” over time. Earlier — mostly after the First World War and prior to the Second World War, “marketing” largely meant organising and arranging the distribution channels for products. Advertising, and advertising cost, was a small percentage of marketing. That’s what’s called “marketing 1.0”. But, especially in the fifites when “psychological marketing” emerged in relation to consumer “motivational research”, marketing became predominantly a matter of organising the channels of communication and “information”. Over time, the word “marketing” has come to mean what was formerly described as “propaganda”, while propaganda was renamed (probably more accurately) “perception management”. That is the phase called “marketing 2.0”. “Marketing 3.0” should be called what it is: “Propaganda 3.0”.