Brandwashing & Biblewashing
by David Murray
You may not know it, but you’ve been “Brandwashed,” probably multiple times, especially if you’ve shopped at Whole Foods Market. Martin Lindstrom made Time’s 2009 “World’s Most Influential People” list partly due to his book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. His latest book, Brandwashed,
highlights “the tricks that companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy.” Lindstrom is a fan of Whole Foods and loves their produce, but in a recent Lifehacker column, he used the company as an example of the “many strategies retailers use to encourage us to spend more than we need to — more than we want to.” Consider these examples from Whole Foods’ New York City store:
• The escalator brings us straight into a realm of freshly cut flowers, immediately priming us to think of freshness, a suggestion that we carry with us subconsciously as we shop.
• The prices for the flowers, fresh fruit, and vegetables are scrawled in chalk on rough-cut black slate, prompting thoughts of outdoor farmers’ markets. (The signs are actually mass-produced; the “slate” is plastic; the prices set at the chain’s Texas headquarters; and the “chalk” is indelible.)
• The stacked “crates” of melons are actually one large cardboard box that has been designed to reinforce the idea of “rustic old-time simplicity.”
And Whole Foods is just one example.
Try to imagine how much you’ve been shaped by a lifetime of “brandwashing.” Frightening, isn’t it?
However, the effectiveness of commercial “brandwashing” should highlight our vulnerability to something far more insidious and evil — spiritual brainwashing. If retailers’ marketing strategies are so successful in taking our cash from us, how much more successful is the far less obvious and yet far more powerful priming and seducing we are continually experiencing at the hands of the master marketer, the Devil.
Day after day, in both our conscious and subconscious minds, the Evil One is brainwashing us with multiple covert and overt messages. Do you question his power or doubt your own weakness? Well, consider the experiment conducted by illusionist Derren Brown, who set out to prove just how susceptible we are to the thousands of signals we are exposed to each day.
Brown invited two advertising creatives to visit his office to discuss some marketing ideas. On their journey across town, Brown arranged for carefully placed clues to appear surreptitiously on posters and balloons, in shop windows, and on t-shirts worn by passing pedestrians. When they arrived, the two creatives were given twenty minutes to come up with a campaign for a fictional taxidermy store. Brown also gave them a sealed envelope that was only to be opened once they had presented their campaign. Twenty minutes later, they presented and then opened the envelope. Their plans for the taxidermy store were remarkably similar to the ad campaign that Brown designed, with an astounding 95 percent overlap.
If Derren Brown can do that to advertisers, think what the Devil can do to you. What’s the solution?
God has provided His Word to protect and purge us from the Devil’s brainwashing. The Bible helps us see the existence of diabolical brainwashing. It gives us a second sense, an ability to discern, a faculty of seeing that enables us to distinguish reality from perception.
The Bible also teaches the easiness of brainwashing. It explains and demonstrates how weak and seducible we are. That’s painful and humbling. But at least it puts us on the alert; it shows us our need of outside help.
The Bible analyzes the elements of brainwashing. It uncovers a number of the Devil’s strategies, both by numerous descriptions and by fearful examples. It helps us detect his first advances before he gets a foothold in our minds.
The Bible underlines the evil of spiritual brainwashing. We don’t just risk losing a few dollars as a result of succumbing to a marketing technique. We risk losing our own souls. The stakes could not be higher.
The Bible shows the way of escape from the Devil’s brainwashing. When we hear the world’s cry, “Conform! Conform! Conform!” we turn to our Bibles and read not only “do not be conformed” but also “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). In fact, if we read the Bible with faith and prayer, our minds will be so renewed that we can eventually say with the Apostle Paul: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).