The role of marketing in building a better and less selfish society

Is individualism in advertising really at the last stages? And can advertisers play an important part in shaping a society that is finally empathetic?

First thing first, I need to clarify that I am not a sociologist, but simply a person who wonders about the world and its role in society. Questions and thoughts that, after the last year and a half, have (if possible) increased exponentially.

The pandemic, indeed, has highlighted the limits of our society and now, if it’s crucial to change direction on digital, environment and health – carrying out the reforms we have been waiting for decades – it is equally important to change our mindset and intervene on some distortions of the our society. As a digital professional, therefore, I wonder about the role that communication experts can assume in this path.

Do you really think that marketers have no responsibility for how people have reacted to lock-downs, social distancing, masks, vaccines and green-pass?

It’s marketing, baby!

Many colleagues will smile as they read this article considering me, at best, a bit naïve: in the end we have to sell a product, not change the world. Well, on the contrary, I believe that, even in our own small way, we have the opportunity to contribute in creating a different, more inclusive, supportive and empathetic language. And even if “that’s the way it’s always been done“, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have a different, more conscious approach.

Language and social changes

Thanks to the European Recovery Fund, indeed, we have an extraordinary opportunity (I hope) to trasform Italy in a modern, competitive, sensitive and (I wish) fairer country. Perhaps the time to stop with the mistaken belief that in life we can and must do it alone has come. A concept dear to the neo-individualism that has dominated the scene of our society and the world of advertising for forty years.

“Because I’m worth it” (L’Oreal)
“Imagine, you can” (Fastweb)
“Built around you” (Mediolanum Bank)

Now is the time for collaboration, empathy and solidarity in spite of the protests of no-masks, no-vax, no-greenpass, no whatever authorities say! The time of the philosophy of the ego, which has guided us so far also in the advertising communication, in my opinion has reached an end (or at least I hope so).

When individualism degenerates into “everyone thinks for themselves” then it must be abandoned and replaced with a supra-individual dimension able to rebuild a more sustainable and fair economy and social order. We must abandon the usual individualistic models and propose new ones.

Saying this I don’t want to demonize neither TV nor advertising, but simply propose new ideas and open a debate.

“In a world full of rules, the only ones that really matter are yours” (Mercedes)

We’ve lived through the age of excess, abundance, the satisfaction of our every desire and we decieved ourselves that we are living in a world where “nothing is impossible” and our needs come first. But Covid-19 has proved the opposite.

From “I” to “US”: it’s time to change our language

Well, it’s not just a question of pronouns, of course, but of values and models. Even today, too many commercials (especially in the automotive sector) focus on the single individual, enhancing their uniqueness with often misleading messages.

Today it’s even more crucial to establish a new balance based on responsibility, respect, reciprocity: the narcissistic, amoral, self-celebratory neo-individualism is running out of time. It’s therefore important to think about its consequences with the aim of finding a more natural and authentic approach and new forms of communication, capable of enhancing social awareness, respect for the environment and diversity.