by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Marketing companies have not been blind to the attachment people have to getting a good deal. They have devised an untold number of gimmicks to attract susceptible people to their marketing matrix. Marketing was in full display during a trip I took to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with my son, daughter-in-law, her mother, and a friend.
Upon exiting the airplane at the airport, I saw that we would be the object of intense marketing efforts. Swarms of people descended upon us. “Swarms” is not a very nice term to describe the marketers, since they were trying to feed their families and make a living in a globalized economy dedicated to the highly competitive tourism industry. But it was hard to see each person as an individual with unique wants and needs, when all I wanted was to be left alone.
After we escaped the crush of salespeople at the airport, the marketer groups seemed to re-form at the hotel before we could even get checked in. Before I knew it, my son and daughter-in-law were sitting on a couch in the lounge with a person selling discounted prices for massages and a “romantic dinner.” All we had to do was attend an hour-long presentation the next morning about saving money on resort vacations, and a highly discounted massage package would be ours. None of us could resist the temptation, so we signed up for an 8:30 a.m. presentation.
Once we had finally checked into our rooms, safe from the crowd of marketers, we decided to take a walk along the inviting beach stretching out before us. After passing by booths of hawkers plying our sensibilities, offering tours to exotic locales and death-defying adventures, we finally reached the glistening ocean. A soft breeze lured us to walk along its shore. But to my surprise, the marketers were lining the beach with horseback-riding treks, trinkets galore, and excursions in watercraft ranging from expensive sailboats to boats that were barely seaworthy. No peace.
Puerto Vallarta marketers have refined the art of selling. Since tourism makes up 70% of the town’s economy, and many of the jobs require training, skills, and a rudimentary knowledge of English, those with little education or technical skills must compete with each other for the tourist crumbs. So those at the low socioeconomic level have few options other than to develop their marketing skills, attempting to snare customers who succumb to their persistent tactics.
I find it particularly troubling that many people have to be reduced to survival marketing. Eking out a living at the lowest end of the marketing food chain hardly makes for a viable way of life. It appears to me to be degrading, frustrating, and unsustainable. The way the globalized economy is structured, many people are reduced to such a status. I question whether moving from the countryside to the city is an improvement in the migrant’s way of life. Although farming is a back-breaking occupation, it still gives the farmer dignity and productiveness.
When I felt annoyed by the marketers I encountered, I decided to step back and turn my annoyance toward not the individual marketers but the bigger picture. Our modern, globalized society is built upon consumerism as the engine that fuels growth and the continuation of the economy. Consumerism is primary and built in. Thus, at every level of society, marketers are on the loose. From Carlos Slim Helú, the sixth richest man in the world, making money selling cell towers in Mexico, to the gentleman trying to sell us discounts on resort vacations around the world, to the women trying to sell trinkets on the beach, to the man with a stall of Mexican handicrafts, all are participants in the marketing game.
Truth be told, I am a marketer too. I am trying to sell the Gather program to adult learners and students and educators. I am using this blog as a forum to show my expertise about global issues, with a goal of persuading people to sign up for Gather and buy a book. Although I may think my aims are more virtuous than those of the guy selling trinkets on the beach, others might not agree.
Nevertheless, I hope that by reflecting deeply about the structure of our economy and how it holistically ties in with the rest of society and who we are as a people, we will pause to consider the type of society we want to forge in the future. Do we really want the whole world to be one big marketplace, each of us reduced to selling our own “product”?
As I walked along the beach in Puerto Vallarta and admired the natural beauty of the ocean, beaches, and wide-open sky, I was comforted by nature’s enchantment. The marketers seemed far out of sight and mind as the waves lapped against my ankles. Then I turned the corner, and I only smiled as a marketer said to me in broken English, “Lady, you want to buy some jewelry? Only $1.”
Indeed, marketing is never far away.
Questions to Consider
- In what ways are you a marketer?
- Do you want the world to be one big marketplace, all of us selling our own “products”?
For more on the global economy, see Dr. Ames’s book The Global Economy: Connecting the Roots of a Holistic System. The global economy will also be one of Gather’s conversation topics, starting January 2018.
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.