Basically, marketing does have immense effect on our personal choices, not because of the individual's own express faults, but because without leadership or social contract, we are subject to social fears and react based on them. And marketing is very closely monitored by large corporations and advertising firms. I should know, I've worked in several.
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The subjectivity argument only goes so far dude. Yes, taste is partially
subjective as far as the practical use of that word goes, but you can still acquire objective forms of inquiry and data. The first line of defence a person has towards herd instincts is knowledge and the will to express it. Because subjectivity is so complex, you can't use it as a blanket statement. You also can't assume that marketing has nothing to do with it. How often does a psyche test come back positive that marketing has an effect on buyer decisions? Too often. It's why there's a philosophy of marketing, why some marketing helps a product skyrocket, while other forms can make it plummet. Assuming that marketing has no effect on consumer decisions is just plain ignorant.
Marketing has one tremendous effect, and it isn't on the individual. It's on the mass. Marketing, done right, sounds like popular opinion, and we respond instinctively to that. As a result, even people who disagree with something often won't voice their complaint if they think
they're alone. They also won't take action because of the bystander effect. The task of marketing (and this is from having worked in advertising at Proctor & Gamble) is not to tell the customer what to buy, but to influence what they think their friends like
Consider this: When Crest first began marketing toothpaste, their original ad was to have a kid rush in, disturb his mother's dinner party, and hold up the Crest tube saying "Hey Ma, no cavities!". The ad was a disastrous flop, and Crest almost didn't make it. They pulled in a marketing specialist who retooled the ad. It ran again, eight months later (the inside limit on public memory), with two important changes. First, the kid came in excited, but waited
on his mother to finish her chat with her friends, before uttering a slightly changed tagline: "Look ma, no cavities!"
Colgate had, prior to this, a 70% market share. Crest, after two months of running that ad, went from less than 1% to nearly 30%. Colgate lost their stranglehold, and Crest has been a fierce competitor ever since.
The ad showed an understanding of two things. One, marketing has to interact with social mores and expectations. Not fulfill
, but interact
. In this case, the ad worked better because it appealed to a sense of parental hierarchy. Secondly, it made the tagline more effective by using a "call to action", which coupled a physical quality with the product.
Now, that was back in the 50s, and they retooled this ad time and again through Benton & Bowles advertising, the people they had contracted from. It built their brand up until that kind of ad became passé.
Advertising has grown far more sophisticated since then. Marketing has used viral methods to get inside just about every corner of society, from the way we express ourselves in everyday language (look at how Kleenex is often used as a name-replacement for "tissue"), to the way we think about certain forms of media (music is considered a cheap, consumable nugget as opposed to a long art form as it was prior to the 1920s).
If you don't think marketing has anything to do with it, let's look at how the industry is couched. The "moé" phenomenon has been growing stronger and stronger, and is frequently pushed. Moé is, in itself, a marketing angle, because it appeals instinctively to certain masculine (though not necessarily male) ideas about sexuality, protectiveness, and vulnerability. Series which contain moé are wildly popular with a large number of consumers, despite having throwaway plots and easily cloned characters. Moé was extracted as an idea from research the anime industry had done into the lolita idea, and sexual tastes inherent in that small portion of the fanbase.
In that time, there's been a steady build in moé, starting innocently enough with an influx of female "types", testing the waters to see which ones appealed to which crowd more. Heck, Kyoto Animation even built a series mocking and representing the issue in Lucky Star. Once moé had been tested, they then began to make moé more and more explicitly sexual and marketed, with explicit model sculpts, artbooks, and much more flooding the marketing once it was widely acceptable for any geek to like moé.
The point was to push that acceptability by testing reaction and pressing the issue slowly, until at last it was accepted.
The same thing occurred in Square-Enix's own products. FFX was marketed in a far, far different way than any of its predecessors. Instead of building a classic fantasy with Shakespearean and/or Greek tragicomedic trappings, they decided that doing market research on the youth was more to their advantage. And fairly so. When you begin this kind of process, you react to what's available. But somewhere along the line, the company also sacrificed the essence of the series past. Now, that was clearly intentional; all of the press releases, interviews, and other media said that rather explicitly. Once finished with FFIX and hailing the past, X was going to look to the future, and not just thematically.
They went too far with FFX-2, however, because general social feeling wasn't that strong towards the brand they were pushing. Yet if you look at how FFXIII played out, it has a lot of the same directorial and production cues used in FFX-2. From the way characters move to large parts of the aesthetic direction (lots of frilly weapons, curving patterns on clothes, and immaculately complexioned teenagers), the only thing really original in FFXIII was Sahz, and even he didn't have a huge part in the overall story. Why? Because the FF team is looking at younger teenagers as their most influenced group. Why did FFXII meet with such split opinion? Because we had been distanced to its style of storytelling and aesthetic. If it had come out in the PSX era, or even the early PS2 era, it would have been fine. But marketing and social trends had changed. Its characters and story are no worse
than those found in FFXIII (I would go as far to say they're worlds better), but fewer people responded to them because of affiliation between expectation and brand.
It's purely magical thinking to believe that tastes are just tastes, independent of marketing. I'm not suggesting a far-reaching conspiracy; these companies don't all talk to each other to achieve the common goal of brainwashing the public -- but they do, at a certain level of corporation -- share a very strong tradition in marketing. People have natural weaknesses to certain instinctual pressures. It does tie in with the postulate that a person is smart, and people are stupid. But I would qualify it that people aren't really
stupid. They react to their social fears when no social contract of explicit behaviour is provided, or no leader is present. In the end, it's why we practice so much escapism, because of how complicated that is to deal with.
Okay then, so how DO you explain the fact that FFXIII-2 is so eagerly awaited by the FF fanbase despite it being an incredibly sloppy, amateurish game?
Well let us at least play it I guess. Trade demos and brief clips aside...
I, sir, will not stop you. And when the game is released, I fully
expect people to enjoy it. Buyer's remorse generally only sets in far, far later, and the public is slow to acknowledge poor choices. Look at James Cameron's Avatar. Hailed as a masterpiece of cinema by the general public at release (even by a large portion of critics), but objectively a shallow, hackneyed piece of eye candy. Whether or not you liked
it I hope is mitigated by your experience with movies and the value you place on good storytelling and cinema.