SKIMMING through a book of vintage ads recently, I came across one from the 1940’s which promoted a cake mix. Yes, a cake mix! But not your regular cake mix. Not one that required extra, fancy ingredients that you had to purchase. No, this one was a “miracle” version that only needed one additional item… water.
Advertising itself as the latest boon for hard-pressed wartime housewives constrained by rationing, it seemed to press all the right buttons, tick all the right boxes. Or so the admen thought. But housewives avoided it in droves and sales failed miserably because it was all too easy! Housewives reasoned that, if something required no effort at all, it simply wasn’t worth it.
Completely perplexed that their greatest invention since sliced bread had flopped, company executives then came up with a brainwave. They rebranded the cake mix: now you had to add not just water but… an egg! And sales took off and everyone was happy, particularly the company executives who didn’t understand the reason but relished the results: huge profits.
What they didn’t take into account was that – then as now – nothing’s that easy. Anything that’s worthwhile takes a modicum of effort, persistence, tenacity. When you look around these days in the run up to Christmas, you can’t move for adverts on billboards and television, in newspapers and magazines urging us to buy more and more, want more and more, do less and less. Like the lawnmower I saw advertised the other night on television that’ll do everything for you: not just mowing but weeding, digging, hanging out the washing, exercising the dog, looking after the kids, dealing with mother-in-law.
In brief, “more” is the message. If you use this particular toothpaste, you’ll be so much more attractive! And beautiful, pouting models with unnaturally shiny hair and snowy-white, toothy smiles seem to offer nirvana, a world where we can achieve the impossible with no effort on our part. Just buy this product and you’ll be just as perfect and happy.
In other words: get thinner, get smarter, look younger. But the reality is that, subconsciously, we’re being driven by fear. Fear that, if we don’t appear thinner, smarter, younger, we’ll fail in our marriage/job/ambitions. That we’re simply not good enough. And that, by having more, we’ll achieve more. By adding more (just water), we’ll have a happier marriage, a better job, fulfil those long-held ambitions.
But materialism and consumerism rarely bring fulfilment. True satisfaction with life comes from within – from family, friendships, freedoms – not from the lure of the fast and easy! Better to ditch that cake mix and start from scratch. We’ll be surprised just how far up the UK Government’s promised “happiness” index we’ll find ourselves! We’ll all score 100%+. I just made that up. But then, so will everyone else.
Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca