Right in your face

One reason many people find it so difficult to get real with money is theological. Yep, you heard right, worship of the almighty dollar. Let me bluntly argue that the dominant religion in America today is consumerism — and it’s based on bald temptation. Before you scoff, let me remind you that some theologians call this condition Mammonism. Among its major tenets:

  • Money makes the world go ‘round.
  • Spending will make you happy.
  • Brand names displayed on your apparel will strut your identity, good taste, or socio-economic status. (If you don’t know the current must-have brand names and products, just ask your kids or grandkids.)
  • There’s a shopping mall within twenty minutes of nine out of 10 Americans. (Think of it as a temple.)
  • Visa has 3.3 billion card users worldwide. Accepted at more than 37 million locations around the globe. China’s the exception — thanks to its own rival card.
  • Billions and billions served. (Do I have to explain? Just think of that happy clown.)

Core assumptions like these are embedded in the advertising messages that bombard us. Pay attention to the hidden tenets.

Corporations invest heavily in selecting a motto, either for the company and its mission itself or for one of its prime products. Just listen.

  • Save money, live better.
  • Expect more, pay less.
  • More for your dollar.
  • Milk from contented cows.
  • Got milk?
  • It’s the real thing.
  • Finger lickin’ good.
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.
  • Betcha can’t eat just one.
  • The best shave a man can get.
  • Snap! Crackle! Pop!
  • When you care enough to send the very best.
  • Like sleeping on a cloud.

How many of these can you identify? Probably all but the third, unless you shop at a family-owned supermarket chain in New England.

What are the hidden messages and underlying assumptions, and how do they match up with your impressions of what’s really offered? What appeals to the emotions and physical sensations? Even the sins of greed, lust, and gluttony? Don’t tell us the Devil made you do it.

It’s not always big corporations, either. Some of the best slogans come from small firms:

  • Yesterday’s meals on wheels. (From a septic tank service.)
  • We repair what your husband fixed. (From a plumber’s truck.)
  • No appointment necessary. We hear you coming. (From a muffler shop.)

Start looking closely around you. They’re everywhere. Trucks on the highway. Logos at the ballpark. Baseball caps and T-shirts. All over the Internet.

What more examples can you add to the list?

Which mottos and slogans do you think are the best? Or the worst?


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