Sitting on the bathroom floor surrounded by plastic promises, I questioned how it all got here.
Alongside gifts, hotel room freebies and basic bathroom supplies, was an undeniably significant collection of potions and lotions with a long faded appeal.
Gone are the days when the promise of clean hair was all that was expected from a shampoo. Advertising, in terms of promoting what is on sale, has been around since time immemorial. But the more complex messaging that developed with the post war economies that took root in the 1920’s and escalated with the development of our consumer economies is another animal altogether.
These days products promise big and advertise to match. My collection of products, whether planned or spur of the moment purchases, had each enticed me with direct or indirect offerings of something I wanted or thought needed.
And it’s easier to buy into solutions that promise to do the hard work for us than bite the bullet and use the knowhow we probably already have. It’s easier to buy a ‘rest effect’ serum than get some decent sleep and hydration, easier to hope for movie star hair by using an endorsed shampoo when deep down we really know better, easier to believe adverts than to question if we really need what they are promoting in the first place.
Deep in the pile of environmentally embarrassing bottles and tubes lay a key I’d never noticed before. Examining what each product was promising, whether directly or by way of association with a celebrity, brand or even price tag, provided an opportunity to recognise what I hazy hopes each had appealed to in the first place and by extension, shone a lens on what the real yearning underneath was.
And not just in cosmetic terms. Exposing promises before making purchases, for any item, helps first identify an exact desired outcome, assess if it is needed or even really wanted, then challenge whether that item is key to the outcome, or whether it’s just a pacifying decoy that allows us to avoid putting the work in to make the change happen.
It’s rather like the many cleaning items and organising systems I purchased to try to make my home more calm and organised, when really, the answer lies within.
And so I continued to sift, reducing what was actually used and washing out the rest, and feeling a little better equipped to outsmart marketing the next time I meet it.