Tag Archives: Marketing Ethics

What Was Your Last Original Thought: Choices and Illusions, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, we looked at the first 6 chapters of Eldon Taylor’s book, Choices and Illusions. There were some great stories about how our thoughts can have a tangible effect on our bodies. In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the next 6 chapters.


Chapter 7 picks up right where the last three chapters leave off: marketing. In particular, Taylor asks one of his favourite questions: “What was your last original thought?” In continuing down this line of thinking, Taylor emphasizes how a great deal of planning and money has been spent on trying to get you to, in a sense, manipulate your thoughts. Now, I don’t want you think that Taylor’s talking about ‘mind control’ or something like that. In fact, if you think about it, you can probably come to the same conclusions that Taylor has. When you’re hungry, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? For many, that will be fast food. When you’re thirsty, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Pop (or soda, or coke, depending on what part of the country/world you live in). How are those your first thoughts with these biological instincts?

Taylor also continues on subliminal thinking in Chapter 8. There are a couple of good stories, one about the 2000 election and the subliminal messaging used by the Bush campaign. There’s also a discussion of dichotic listening, which brought me back to my class in cognitive psychology from several years ago. Similarly, if you’ve never taken the Stroop Test, I suggest checking it out.

Chapter 9 has a two-part story that I thought you’d enjoy. Here’s part 1:

 It is about a Zen master who made it a habit at noontime to meditate while he walked in the gardens. On this particular day, he became so engrossed in his meditation that he wandered far into the jungle, where he met a hungry tiger. Well, our Zen master did what any Zen master would do, which is to attend to the urgency of the moment. He fled as fast as he could with the hungry tiger in pursuit. Soon he came to the edge of a sheer cliff, but with a hungry tiger about to eat him, he jumped over the edge. On the way down he grabbed the only thing jutting out from the cliff, a small tree. There he hung on as he heard a roar from below. Now, there was a hungry tiger above and a hungry tiger below. Just then the small tree began to pull out of the ground. He looked to his right. Nothing. He looked below. Nothing. He looked to his left. A beautiful strawberry. He picked the strawberry, and it was the best fruit he’d eaten in his life.

Taylor uses this story to emphasize the now: “The moral of the story is, be mindful — you will find the strawberries.” The second part of the story is just as good:

 After I told this story to an audience in Malaysia, a fellow approached me during a break and asked if I knew the entire story.

“I thought that was the entire story.”

“No,” he said. “Would you like to know it?”

We sat down and had coffee while he related the story that he said comes from Paramahansa Yogananda. It seems that the Zen master, when confronted with the tigers, was actually hanging from a small apple tree while mice were digging away the light soil that the tree was rooted in. The story cuts away to a picture of the event hanging in a gallery. There spectators are viewing the art, when one speaks up, “Look at that stupid fellow. He’s selfishly indulging his senses while blind to his circumstances.” The story then returns to the Zen master. Another tiger runs onto the scene, and now there are two tigers above. The Zen master enjoys his apple, and pretty soon he sees vultures circling overhead. The two tigers have fought and killed each other. The mice see the shadow of the birds and flee. Below a herd of deer comes down to drink from the brook, and the tiger below sets off in pursuit of them. In short, what seemed like dire circumstances fixed themselves or were fixed by some power above.

Of course, some folks may balk at the idea that every situation will fix itself, but I’d argue that lots of people forget that when they are trying to decide the best course of action, ‘wait and see’ is overlooked more often than it should be. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the last 6 chapters of the book.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book.)

They Limped in and Danced Out: Choices and Illusions, Part 1

A few of my posts recently have been about the importance that our thoughts and beliefs can have on how we function. Coincidentally, I was asked to write a review of a book that is right in line with this thinking. The book: Choices and Illusions: How Did I Get Where I Am, and How Do I Get Where I Want to Be? by Eldon Taylor. I enjoyed reading it and if you’re unfamiliar with the idea that our thoughts can have a tangible impact on us, this book is certainly a great introduction. Over the next few days, I’ll take a closer look at some of the sections of the book. In today’s post, I’ll look at the first 6 chapters.


Chapter 1 was a great introduction to this idea that our thoughts can have a tangible effect on our lives. Taylor tells a clever story about an eagle that was raised as a chicken. The eagle, all its life, assumes it’s a chicken, even when an eagle comes to tell it that it’s an eagle. This chapter reminds me of many of the posts I’ve written about perspective. If you don’t know what other possibilities there are out there, it’s hard to choose something different.

In chapter 2, I was surprised to hear about someone who can draw fractals freehand! I remember a few years ago being really enthralled by fractals. In fact, there were times when I’d just watch YouTube videos of fractals for in 15-30 minute increments. If you’re interested, Jason Padgett is the fellow who can draw fractals freehand. He’s quite good! And if you don’t believe me that fractals can be encapsulating, watch this: Fractal Zoom Mandelbrot Corner.

Chapter 3 had a really fun story about a high school reunion. There were a number of people who had reached the age where they weren’t as mobile as they used to be. The DJ, not accounting for this in creating the playlist, became worried when people weren’t moving so well on the way into the event. Figuring that there wasn’t enough time to change the playlist, the DJ played it as it was. The DJ later told Taylor: “Eldon, they limped in and danced out!” How is this possible? Well, as Taylor emphasizes, our thoughts can have a powerful effect on our abilities. Many of these people were transported to their youthful days upon hearing the popular music during the time they were in high school.

Chapters 4 through 6 reminded me of the importance of the documentary Miss Representation (and it’s soon to be released companion: The Mask You Live In). The media can have such a powerful impact on the way we think about ourselves and it can often be overlooked. In particular, chapter 6 reminds us that advertising is not always the most ethical profession. With that being said, it’s important to say that not all advertisers behave in this way.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at chapters 7 through 12.

(Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book.)

The Obesity Crisis: How Come No One’s Talking About Neuromarketing?

The Economist did a fantastic special report on obesity a few issues back. I highly recommend reading it. You may see the obesity debate in a whole new light. However, I was a bit disappointed in the closing paragraph of one of their opening articles in that issue:

There is a limit, however, to what the state can or should do. In the end, the responsibility and power to change lie primarily with individuals. Whether people go on eating till they pop, or whether they opt for the healthier, slimmer life, will have a bigger effect on the future of the species than most of the weighty decisions that governments make.

I can totally understand where this perspective is coming from, but I don’t think that this perspective accounts for neuromarketing.

The technical definition:

In recent times, ‘neuromarketing’ has come to mean the application of neuroimaging techniques to sell products.

Meaning, marketers hook you up to a machine while you watch images/video of  product and then notice when certain areas of your brain light up. With this information, they’re able to tell when your brain is active and — theoretically — determine that it’s because of what you’re watching. [Is that frightening to anyone?] So, as the title of this post asks, with regard to the obesity crisis, why isn’t anyone talking about neuromarketing? Let me make the connection a little clearer.

We know that through neuromarketing, it’s possible to determine how our brains react to certain advertisements and products. With this information, companies can then use the advertisements that are most successful in getting consumers to buy their products. If we apply what we know from this abstract scenario to the food industry (is it weird to anyone else that it’s called the food industry?) we can posit that there are probably companies out there who use neuromarketing techniques to convince consumers to buy their product. Isn’t it possible (probable?) that companies who are in the business of selling us over-the-top sugary drinks or unnecessarily sweet-tooth-inducing treats also in the business of using neuromarketing techniques to convince us that we need to be drinking these drinks or eating these treats?

Getting back to the opening quote from The Economist, my response would have to be — in part — no. While I agree that personal responsibility is important, sometimes, the environment is too compelling. In this case, the environment is neuromarketing. How can a consumer make an informed choice if her/his brain is being manipulated?

I’m not sure of the solution to the obesity epidemic (though I have an idea that I’ll talk about in the coming days!), but I know that we most certainly need to include neuromarketing in that discussion.