by Sophie Bai

The nature and success of marketing stems from today’s concept of a “hedonistic consumer society”, which mainly focuses on the enjoyment of instant satisfaction – the idea of pleasure as a true way of life.

In order to develop a hedonistic attitude towards consumption, some marketing experts attempt to instil in our minds that things like shopping are “therapeutic”, or a reward for our stressful and hard-working lives. Furthermore, marketing is further utilised to ensure individuals associate consumption with happiness, social status and quality of life. One only needs to look at any number of recent advertising campaigns to see that the concepts of happiness and pleasure are being directly linked to high levels of consumption, and manipulated before our very eyes.

The most well-known marketing philosophy that marketing creates “customers’ needs and wants”, implies that consumers are originally passive and lacking motivation; so much so that they must be injected with needs and wants through marketing. There are, of course, some more altruistic opinions regarding marketing that I’d like to share with you.

In his article “Marketing, the Consumer Society and Hedonism”, Mr. J. O’Shaughnessy claims that it is more convincing that marketing merely allows our yearnings to surface. That “something” is already inside us, and marketing only brings that realisation to the surface. This view is supported by Mr H. Kjellberg, who in his recent article “Market Practices and Over-Consumption”, argues that marketing serves a purpose of responding to consumer preferences and that it drives society’s economic consumption. He believes that consumers are able to act in their own best interests and are therefore responsible for their own consequences (and consumption).

Whether you believe that marketing creates our needs and wants, or that it merely allows them to surface, one thing is clear – it’s well and truly here to stay in today’s society.

My view in relation to marketing is that we should always be aware of the reasons for our increasingly high level of consumption. It’s human nature to choose the easiest solution to a problem (or avoid it altogether). It’s normal to “indulge yourself” in order to avoid dealing with life’s problems (such as financial distress or family issues), or negative emotions (such as loneliness or depression). However, we must be careful that these kinds of “behavioural motivations” can often worsen your actual situation – and leave you open to being taken advantage of.


  1. O’Shaughnessy, J. and O’Shaughnessy, N. J. (2002), “Marketing, the Consumer society and Hedonism”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 36, No. 5/6, pp. 524-547.
  2. Kjellberg, H. (2008), “Market Practices and Over-Consumption”, Consumption, Markets & Culture, Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 151-167.
  3. Marion, G. (2006), “Marketing Ideology and Criticism: Legitimacy and legitimization”, Marketing Theory, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 245-262.
  4. Heath, P. T. (2008), “(Mis) trust in marketing: a reflection on consumers’ attitudes and perceptions’’, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol 24, No.9-10, pp.1025-1039.

Sophie is a Senior Financial Analyst at Condon Advisory Group with over 8 years of experience in Personal and Corporate Insolvency.