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Do Marketers Create Artificial Needs?

  • Date Submitted: 07/27/2012 05:18 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 50.5 
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I would like to discuss the claim according to which marketing creates (artificial) needs for the sole purpose of profit making.

The distinction between real and artificial human needs relies on the distinction between a good’s use value and symbolic value:

Real needs are satisfied by a good’s use-value.
Artificial needs are satisfied by a good’s symbolic value.
But what does it mean for goods to have a use-value only?

Lets take clothes, a basic-needs good, as an example. If clothes are to serve the sole purpose of protecting the human body from several environmental conditions, then we really only need one type of t-shirt, two types of trousers (one short, one long), no skirts (as their utility is lower than that of trousers), one jumper and one coat, for all human beings irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, class, or other cultural bases of differentiation.

Since what was described as ‘real’ needs is not necessarily identical to ‘basic’ needs let’s also take a different example: cars. If you’re a bachelor you get a 3-door car, if you have a family of four a 5-door, if you have more children a mini-van, if your job requires a truck of some sort. The same thing goes for pretty much all other products such as your home, its furniture, appliances and interior decoration.

In short, the only bases of differentiation in such a society are objective and scientific: occupation, life-stage, number of children, gender (only in certain cases) and a few others. I believe that this notion of real needs is based on an unrealistic understanding of the nature of human needs – in that it is asocial and therefore not human – due to the degree of cultural uniformity that it demands.

Now let’s look at the way in which what is called customer needs, but is in fact nothing more than human needs, are created in a human society.

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