You may not know it, but you’ve been Brandwashed, probably multiple times, and especially if you’ve shopped at Whole Foods.
Martin Lindstrom made Time’s 2009 list of “World’s Most Influential People” partly due to his book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. His latest book, Brandwashed, highlights “the tricks that companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy.” Lindstrom is a fan of Whole Foods and loves their produce, but in a Fastcompany column, he used it as an example of how “many strategies retailers use to encourage us to spend more than we need to – more than we want to. Consider these examples from one of Lindstrom’s visits to one of Whole Foods New York City stores:
- The escalator brings you straight into a realm of freshly cut flowers, immediately priming us to think of freshness, a suggestion that we carry with us, albeit subconsciously, as we shop. (Consider the reverse impact of cans of tuna and plastic flowers).
- The prices for the flowers, fresh fruit, and vegetables are scrawled in chalk on rough cut black slate, prompting images of outdoor farmers markets and roadside stalls with prices changing by the hour. (The signs are actually mass-produced, the prices set at Texas HQ, and the “chalk” is indelible!)
- Ice is everywhere. Why? Well, of course, some produce needs to be kept chilled, but lots of other stuff needs no ice. It serves the same symbolic and priming purpose as the drops of water that some stores spray on select vegetables.
- The stacked “crates” of melons are actually one large cardboard box that’s been carefully designed to reinforce the idea of “rustic old-time simplicity”
And Whole Foods is just one example of many retailers covered by Lindstrom. Even fruit growers are getting in on the act. “Sales records show that bananas with Pantone color 13-0858 (otherwise known as Vibrant Yellow) are less likely to sell than bananas with Pantone color 12-0752 (also called Buttercup), which is one grade warmer, visually, and seems to imply a riper, fresher fruit.” Crops are now being manipulated to ensure the maximum sales potential of the final banana! Lindstrom also found that while the Apples may look freshly plucked from the tree, “the average apple you see in the supermarket is actually 14 months old.”
Well, we can only imagine the impact of years of exposure to this kind of brandwashing. But, in a sense, its power and effectiveness should highlight our vulnerability to far more insidious and evil brainwashing. If these marketing strategies are so successful in prising our cash from us, how much more successful is the far less obvious and yet far more powerful priming and seducing we are continually experiencing at the hands of the master-marketer, the Devil.
Day after day, hour after hour, in both our conscious and in our subconscious, He is brainwashing us to believe in perception rather than reality.
So what’s the solution?
The Bible helps us to see the existence of diabolical brainwashing. It gives us a second sense, an ability to discern, a faculty of seeing that most do not have.
The Bible also teaches us the easiness of brainwashing. It demonstrates how weak, vulnerable and seduceable we are. But in doing so, it at least puts us on the alert.
The Bible analyzes the elements of brainwashing. It highlights a number of the Devils’ strategies, both by numerous descriptions and by fearful examples.
The Bible underlines the evil of spiritual brainwashing. We don’t just risk losing a few dollars as a result of succumbing to a marketing technique. We risk losing our own souls forever.
The Bible is the way of escape from the devil’s brainwashing. Yes, the only antidote to brainwashing is Biblewashing. It alone can resist the siren calls of the world: “Conform! Conform! Conform!” and enable us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).
This article was first published in the February issue of Tabletalk.