Defining our value-system

Kathmandu: Advertisement not only speak to consumers in a language of desire and need but also sets up people’s perceptions of how things are or should be. In turn, this will patronise our society’s value-system over time. In that sense, our advertisements today are true reflections of our society. Advertising can shock, entertain or move us. It can resonate through wit, humour, straightforwardness or beautiful execution.

As marketers, we sincerely believe in the benefits that advertising brings to society. We always like to advocate that advertising encourages development and speeds up the acceptance of new products and technologies. It fosters entrepreneurship. It gives consumers a wider variety of choice. By encouraging mass production, it helps keep prices down. And of course, it stimulates healthy competition between companies, which ultimately benefits all of us.

Having said that, our ads also heavily reflect what our society desires because of the way it plays on the human mind. By reflecting what the target audience really wants, the brand will be seen meeting certain needs and desires of the protagonist. The objective is to arouse the drive to use that particular brand. Sporting goods often appeal to our desire to be better versions of ourselves by challenging with powerful taglines likes — “Impossible Is Nothing” or “Just Do it”.

Nike’s “Just Do it” tag for sport shoes appeals to consumer’s desires for self-betterment. The logo itself reflects society’s value system for achievement and success which is very much the ethos of society today. Also, the advertised sport shoes (in this case, Nike) generate desire for the product itself when the consumers associate the realisation of personal achievement with these shoes.

A very good case study is Marlboro’s filtered cigarette advertisements where it reflects successful men's desire to be masculine with the portrayal of the rugged, manly Marlboro Man. The advertisement featured men as cowboys smoking Marlboro Cigarettes and these were extremely effective.

Many other tobacco companies during those days did risk-reduction advertisements for their filtered cigarettes where the advertisements focused on the lower health impacts brought about by smoking filtered cigarettes compared to unfiltered ones but it did not result in a significant increase in demand for them.

Whereas, Marlboro did not focus on the health reductions at all and instead focused on the masculinity of smoking its cigarettes by associating it with a masculine occupation like being a cowboy. This shows that advertisements reflect society's desires and this is precisely what is needed to generate desire for buying a product.

Gender is a social construction and we have societal value-systems for both sexes as a result of gender. For example, we expect men to change flat tyres where as we expect women to cook good meals for the family. Basically society is telling us what a man and a woman should be like respectively. If you see carefully, you will find that gender is one of the most used aspects in advertisements. And why do advertisers use gender so much? Because gender is at the very core of who we are. It is central to our identity and also because it can carry a message very easily.

Our society is working constantly to maintain the expression of gender and advertising plays a large role in patterning this value system in our society today — which simultaneously is creating our new culture. In fact, if you really see it, advertisements are becoming an integral part of the process by which we learn about our gender roles today.

In that sense, advertisements are creating value-systems in society, which help in forming society’s desires to a large extent, as they need to appeal and resonate with the consumer to sell their brands. To keep up with the changing value system you see the evolving messages created for the same brand over time. This is imperative as there is a need to stay relevant to the consumers and to avoid a disconnect between what is seen and what is reality.

A very good example is the way Coke has been advertising over the years to connect with a changing value-system. They have also been changing their tagline for different occasions helping them stay in constant touch with their loyal consumers.