The Inadequacy of Marketing


There’s always something that I want. For my whole life, there has always been some elusive item that I thought I needed to have in order to be happy. I believed that after I bought it, I wouldn’t want or need anything anymore. I would be satisfied.

While I was learning to play guitar, at 16 years old, I walked into a music store and saw a mini belt amplifier. I’m not sure why, but I thought it was the coolest thing. I went back to the store a few times just to admire it until I had enough money to buy it. I could describe how underwhelming it was, but let’s just say that after a couple of days I came to terms with my disappointment and returned it.

When I was 20, I had my sights set on a DSLR camera. I just needed to have it. I researched all the different brands and models and eventually settled on a Canon Rebel T2i. A few weeks after buying it (along with all the accessories) Canon released the T3i model, which was way better than the T2i, of course.

When I was 25, I had the chance to buy a new cell phone. For years I had coveted an iPhone. After changing jobs and doing the math, I decided it was time. So I took the plunge and became the proud owner of an iPhone, which still demands too much of my attention.

Right now, it’s the Apple Watch. I’ve been eyeing it for a few years. I am fighting the urge to go buy it. Do I need it? Of course not. But that’s not how marketing works.

We receive messages every day through our phones, TVs, buses, billboards, etc., that try to convince us to buy something. The strategy isn’t simply to make us believe that a product or service is good. It is to convince us that we need it. We may think these messages don’t affect us, but more often than not, we will accept marketing’s underlying message: we are inadequate.

In order to convince us of a need for a product, marketers try to persuade us to believe that we aren’t complete without it. We aren’t good enough. We can’t do what we want to do as well as we could without owning what they have to offer. It’s a great strategy because they get a reaction from the deepest part of our being.

Shampoo isn’t just a nice product; it’s the wonder solution, and without it, your hair will be dry and flakey. Running shoes aren’t just foot protection; they are the key to an active lifestyle and the perfect way for you to show your fashion sense. Laptops are more than an entertainment device or a tool to work on projects; they are a portal to the universe and a way to fulfill your creativity. Of course advertisers don’t come out and say these things, but watch enough commercials and that’s what you’ll see.

Just think of some memorable ads and ask yourself what they are actually selling. It’s not about yogurt, beer, or trucks. It’s about living the good life, having fun with friends, and being a macho man. The promise is that when we have a product, a certain need will be filled. Until then, we will always be missing something. 

When it comes down to it, we know that these products alone won’t fulfill us or make us happy. Life is made up of much more than just material things. But even with this knowledge, it’s a real battle to fight the voices of inadequacy that we hear everyday. When we buy into those messages, it leads us to fill the void with all kinds of things, including possessions, entertainment, hobbies, sports, toxic relationships, drugs and alcohol, and even religion.

One of the biggest challenges we face is to learn the truth of our humanity that is written all over scripture. It is simple, yet profound: We are adequate. We are beloved. We are enough.

But here’s the thing about this message: it’s only true within the context of a God who created the world and everything in it. If we believe that this world has no purpose and no creator, then neither do we. Humans would simply be, and if that’s the case, then there would be no inherent value in any of us.

But that’s not what Christians believe. In fact, we're drastically opposed to this idea. And in order for us to truly accept our own value and beloved-ness, we need to frame our lives in view of the one who gives value, purpose, and love.

The creation stories of Genesis help to answer some of the world-view setting questions that we all wrestle with. Why are we here? What is our purpose? How did all this come to be? In short, they tell the story of a God who spoke creation into being. This God made things to be good, with order and a purpose. Humanity was given a special role and was made to be in relationship with God and all of creation.

Every human being has value, because it was the creator Himself who spoke beauty and goodness into existence. We each have a purpose, which is seen in our God-given capacity for intellect and creativity. God gave us a role and relationships with others so that we can live fulfilling lives.

If we want to have any chance of combating the messages of inadequacy perpetuated by the marketing industry, then we need to answer the larger questions regarding our value. Do we believe that all humans have inherent and universal value? Then we need to discover that truth is rooted in something other than ourselves. It’s only when we root ourselves in God’s revelation of purpose and love for each one of us that we can believe in the value of others.

The beauty of contentment comes when we realize that we are enough, that we don’t need to buy or fill ourselves with anything else in order to make us adequate. We find peace when we are able to see past the allure of materialism and consumerism and find our identity as beloved creations of God. This is the truth God invites you to discover. You are adequate. You are beloved. You are enough.