Consumerism and the buying of objects can be said to be an attempt to recapture the lost mother we had as a baby (the perfect mother we created) whatever age we are. And shopping could thus be defined as a non-psychoanalytical way of working through the ‘loss’ of the mother, and this is experienced as an internal ‘lack’ (as Lacan called it).
Therefore buying a new Mac is not just a thirst for new technology, or a need to read your email on a 27 inch screen – it is in fact a satisfaction of a deep internal need to recapture that loving beautiful object (i.e our mother) which was lost when we grew up. Similarly, taking things into the body such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, drugs and food can be seen as a way to fill the hole (however temporarily) left by the ‘loss’ of the original all loving mother.
What this means in relation to advertising is that products and services can be branded in accordance to what parental function they perform and what particular ‘lack’ they fulfil in us. Some brands and their products aim exclusively at the ‘primary mother replacement’ (PMR) market (consumers who are looking for holding, unconditional love and security from their brands – waitrose, volvo). Some aim at the ‘primary father replacement’ (PFR) market (consumers who are looking for logical adventurous all conquering freedom from their brands – nike, google, porsche). Some consumers will mix and match brands but generally there type of ‘lack’ will determine their brand choices.
What is very clear from this psychoanalytical view of advertising is that our upbringings and the unavoidable disappointments inherent in them can be directly related to our shopping behaviour and our alignment with certain brands. We consume creatively, and those creative decisions are influenced by the feelings we search for, and the feelings we search for are created by that ‘lack’ we experienced in our childhoods. And therefore advertising’s ultimate job is to fill and brand that lack with products and services. It is pure manipulation. But a manipulation we all desperate want and look for.
And here comes the money shot – this lack never leaves us, is never filled, is ever present in our buying behaviours. Therefore the old need products and services that alleviate the pain of loss as much as the young. It does not dissipate. The untapped market seems huge – so why sell everyone the elixir of youth when what we actually want is the warm embrace of a primary replacement brand? Let’s get mothering!!!