Our digital economy along with the proliferation of social media has brought about some very powerful channels of communication. In spite of all of the benefits of these channels they have also managed to magnify a darkside. There is a form of marketing that we like to call “Perfection Marketing.” This applies to presenting your product or service to be something that it is not, or otherwise said marketing perfection. The whole foundation of marketing is how to take your product and present it to the consuming public in the best way possible, in the hopes they will purchase it. Although the presentation of perfection has existed for some time, the platform of social media has expanded its reach and speed of delivery. Not only do companies fight to claim their positions of perfection, but so do many of the participants in social media.
Companies use perfection marketing strategies in various ways. One way is through “puffery.” Puffery is characterized by exaggeration and hyperbole. “The best hamburger in the world” is an example of an exagerrated claim that would not be taken seriously by any reasonable individual. Advertisers use exaggeration and hyperbole to get people’s attention and make their message memorable. Because the claims in puffery are obviously exaggerated, and because exaggeration works to get people’s attention, puffery is an accepted advertising technique. These claims are subjective and a matter of opinion, therefore, they can’t be measured, so they are not challenged. Claims such as “The Best,” “The Tastiest,” “The Freshest,” “The Fastest,” or “The Smartest,” are used freely. These superlatives project the idea of perfection. Sometimes companies may push the boundary of puffery, which leads to deception. This is illegal and can be challenged. Irregardless, the intention remains the same, to position the product or service as something much greater than it is.
In addition to descriptions and messages, it is very apparent in illustrations and photos. Very rarely do products represent in real life what we have been lead to believe from photos in magazines. Restaurants and Cosmetics companies are probably the biggest perpetrators of this strategy. Along with the tagline “The Perfect Cup of Coffee,” you will be presented an image of what somebody believes to be a perfect cup of coffee (and before you have even tasted it, the idea as been imprinted upon your brain). Cosmetics companies reinforce this idea of flawlesness and perfection with the publication of every beauty magazine. So much so that in 2016, Americans spent more than 15 billion dollars on combined surgical and nonsurgical procedures for the first time ever.
Just about everything we see in the media is in some way fake: Photos of bodies, women’s, men’s or other, packs of gum, new cars, cell phones, bottles of beer, bread, apples, iPhones, everything. There is constant societal pressure to adhere to this idea of perfection. Any advertising product that appears in the media has been meticulously lit, retouched, and airbrushed. Have you EVER ordered a McDonald’s Big Mac and received anything that ever came close to resembling what you have seen in their advertisements? That hamburger does not exist; it’s a fake, idealized, made-up image of someone’s imagined idea of the perfect hamburger.
However, this manipulation seems to work, because perfection somehow lies in the human character and we tend to try and move towards it. So we get sucked into thinking we can be perfect, which unfortunately for many ends up causing great disillusionment and pain. Social media has exacerbated this by providing a greater distribution platform and tools that allow anybody to photoshop anything, including themselves and present to the world. In addition, they use it as a weapon against others.
The idea of perfection has in fact become the image of a sad world. The more I think about it the more I start to dislike the idea of perfection. Stop and think about what it would really mean to be perfect. The idea of perfection insinuates that there is nothing better. There will be no more improvement or discovery. It is the best that you will ever get. It is the be-all and end-all. It is the example that everything else in its class is to be compared against. Nothing will ever surpass it. After all, how could you surpass perfection? If you could, it would imply that perfection didn’t exist in the first place. It sounds pretty sad, knowing that nothing would ever be better again than what you know now.
The truth is that perfection is essentially a myth. No one has ever seen perfection in any form, and if they think they have, it would be very difficult to prove its validity. In reality perfection can never exist. For something to be truly perfect, the whole world would have to agree on that fact and every other competitor would have to be accounted for. I doubt you could even get everybody to agree that the sun will come up tomorrow. There will always be someone that will disagree. We all see things differently; therefore, one person’s idea of imagined perfection would only be their own, and just that, imagined. It is therefore a MYTH. This is the main reason companies can get away with puffery.
So what does a perfectionist even look like? To start, being defensive is a trait of perfection. If you are criticized and you don’t like it, it is because criticism means imperfection on some level. So you naturally defend against it. Are you obsessed with failure? Do you always focus on what is not working? Are you all or nothing? Meaning, if something doesn’t work for you then you quit it immediately. We are, in fact, conditioned to be perfect. Think about our society. Who has ever rewarded failure? We always reward the results. We never reward the journey, the attempt to at least try something new.
The signs of this conditioning and constant manipulation are everywhere in society and are having detrimental effects. Psychologically, it is self-destructive trying to measure up to what others see as perfection. This is particularly apparent in Woman’s magazine ads. It is all or nothing, either I look like that or I am inferior. It is not surprising that one falls into a spiral of self doubt and depression when they come to the realization of how far off they are from the mark.
Is there a way out of this downward spiral? Yes, there is. The first step is accepting the idea of perfection as a myth. We are not perfect and never will be. But rest assured, nobody else on this planet will be perfect either and it is that diversity that makes it a great place to be. Stop focusing on the ends and more on the means. Be an individual, unique from everyone else, as everyone is. Being unique is your greatest asset. Nobody else in the world is like you. Show it and use it to your advantage.
The second step is to focus on excellence rather than the idea of perfection. Excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Someone who strives for excellence and not perfection is someone who is open and welcoming to suggestions. A person working towards excellence enjoys the process of moving forward, including the failures that come with the journey. They are constantly learning and getting better by way of those failures. You can always be better tomorrow than you were today. That alone is an uplifting thought. A person striving for excellence is realistic and understands what reality really looks like, including the hamburger, and they certainly don’t give up on the journey, because the journey is the greatest part of the experience that last a lifetime!