As the late, great Marvin Harris wrote, despite their (somewhat) changing tactics and technologies, ruling classes have always had only one basic strategy: intensification. When times are good, pour it on; when times are tough, pour it in on even harder. (See Harris’ Cannibals and Kings for the basic explanation of this very strong historical tendency.)
Big business marketing is, of course, merely the newest form of class-struggle-from-above, a.k.a. the latest weapon in the 6,000-year run of regimes based on overseers deploying threats and promises to make underlying populations’ thoughts and behaviors comport with the entrenched interests of great wealth and power.
For those trying to resist the destruction of the ecosystem and human culture — and corporate marketing greatly accelerates both these processes — it is vital not only to recognize marketing as a branch of systematic elite coercion (rather than of the much-advertised but still little-delivered freedom of choice), but also to note that, as such, marketing is fully subject to the intensification principle of class domination. When times get economically tough, big business planners work even harder to manipulate ordinary people into shopping (remember: watching commercial TV, by far the #1 “free time” activity in the nation, is merely a disguised form of shopping) and buying in prescribed ways:
Right on cue, the latest issue of Advertising Age has a story called “Recession Can Be a Marketer’s Friend.”
[R]ecession ‘[makes] the stakes higher,’ said David Rubin, brand manager on the U.S. launch and now director of U.S. hair-care marketing for Unilever. ‘Consumers are forced to make tougher choices when the economy is bad, and the role of marketing just gets amplified.’
The same story quotes a former McDonald’s marketer on the same point:
My response [to recession] has always been that when you go through periods of stress, that’s when you really have to go after top-notch, high-quality people, and really go out and market like crazy.
The lesson here is that there is simply no break from the further commercialization and commodification of the world. It is built into corporate capitalism, the world be damned.