system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Friday, 10 July 2009

brands and smelly fridges...

In my strand of psychotherapy we've recently learned about a concept called a "condition of worth".

The thinking goes in formative years - and beyond - other peoples' values are often foisted on us - sometimes we're conscious of them - sometimes not. Sometimes they are useful - in as much as they resonate with our own, core beliefs - but if we internalize those that don't sit with us - then it is said we have adopted a "condition of worth".

"Oh Johnny, you’re brilliant at football" (when Johnny is a bit crap - and knows it) is a condition of worth. Johnny is likely to attempt to fulfill the condition - or rebel against it. In either case the condition hasn't resonated with what he "really" knows. A conflict is established.

It follows of course, that negative conditions "you're stupid, you're not attractive, you're thick" are equally damaging - but these are usually more obvious than those that appear - at least on the surface - to be well meaning and "positive" - these are the ones I'm particularly interested in from a brand's persepective.

Are overtly positive messages made by brands distorting society’s own sense of self?

"Your Asda" - it may well resonate with you - perhaps you really love Asda - but for those of us who believe them (with a mountain of good evidence) to be exploitative, money grabbing and ultimately bad for the people who make their products and consume them - it jars. It makes our lives less colorful when we are told something is ours when it is not (and we don't want it) - but it sets up a conflict, all of us, as a society, may eventually need to resolve.

For the majority of us who don't believe £2 t-shirts, being made by 6 year olds in sweat shops on the other side of the world, is a good idea (whilst acknowledging that by no means all manufacturing in the developing world is a bad thing) this mismatch is like something smelly in the fridge. We can ignore it for a while, but sooner or later, we’re going to need to clean it up.

Take any metric, any measurement of happiness since the 1970s and it has fallen. Is angst within western societies deeper these days because we don't have the tools to resolve the psychological conflicts brands create?

When I see "your Asda" - my own reaction is to think - you're nothing to do with me, I don't support or endorse your way of doing business. I go home - I have a rant - maybe I write a post on my blog. In some small way I have a means of partial resolution. I invite myself to try and square the conflict between my core values and those being forced upon me. But it's not easy.....

Perhaps there's a body of work on this - I'm certainly going to look into it. In the meantime I have a new client...Nestle....

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