06/07/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Big Business Gets Fat On Renewable Appetites

Sometimes it seems that we're so blind to the core that we fail to make decisions based on those core factors - or our marketing strategies begin to distort the human needs that products are intended to satisfy.

Case in point: A great proportion of consumer buying is driven by our 4 primary renewable appetites - but far too often, corporate decisions lose touch with the dynamics of these renewable hungers, or manipulate them in unhealthy and even unethical directions.

I've been working recently on a book that digs solidly into this 'renewable appetites' dynamic, both psychologically and business-wise. Here are a few insights that perhaps seem simplistic at first glance, but which expose core points to ponder - and perhaps to act upon:

1: Global Gobble: We all get really hungry several times a day; we can't block this rising compulsion to find something tasty to stuff into our mouths - and of course, for business, the more we stuff down our throats, the more profit they make.

Consumers are continually being manipulated by clever advertizing folk, to stuff more than they need of the wrong stuff into their stomachs - resulting in an obese nation with a staggering health bill that agri-business and the entire food industry refuses to take responsibility for. Their non-stop bombardment of 'eat more fat and sweets' ads in the media provokes over-eating. Basic disconnect between genuine need and corporate greed.

2: Renewable Sex: Most of us are regularly driven by the urge for sexual stimulation and release - youngsters crave this on a daily basis, us old folk maybe once a week, but it's definitely a primary renewable hunger with remarkable punch (and infinite manipulation potential).

The joke about sex is that it doesn't necessarily cost a penny or have anything to do with business and profit. But usually, through associative marketing strategies, the temporary satisfaction of this powerful and universal renewable appetite gets directly attached to products and services, and thus end up costing us loads (and often satisfying us less).

3: You Gotta Move: Many people don't realize that movement is a vital and renewable appetite. The body hungers for movement in order to stay healthy, strong, alert, and engaged. Movement feels good and satisfies - plus it can be entirely free. Like Mick Jagger sang, "You gotta move!"

But ... human beings often confuse appetites, and substitute one craving for another. Rather than responding to the desire to move more (exercise of any kind) we often substitute eating more, or napping. And too often, negative emotions such as depression, stress and anxiety inhibit our need to move. Addiction to TV and computers furthers this problem, while making companies money.

4: Recharging The Batteries: The need for rest and sleep represents an essential renewable appetite. We surely hunger for sleep when we're tired, and sleep is also free. But one out of 4 people tonight suffer from symptoms of sleeplessness and insomnia - and billions of drug dollars are spent to satisfy this natural sleep appetite.

Why? One big reason, quite honestly, is because people, while resting, meditating or sleeping are not busy consuming. If the media can keep us stimulated, we tend to buy more than if we relax and kick back. Therefore advertizing bucks pay media companies to produce stimulating/stressful content.

Appetite For Money... Please don't get me wrong. I'm not crying out for revolution here - I'm simply hoping we can start looking realistically at how our basic appetites are being manipulated to make a buck, often with zero sense of ethical responsibility.

I feel I have my finger on a realistic cure
for primary social and economic problems ...

Our economy might quite quickly become healthier, likewise our bodies and emotions, if we decide to manage the satisfaction of our renewable appetites more clearly and responsibly.

Satisfaction Guaranteed - Seriously: The wise secure path for succeeding in business, from my psychologist's point of view, is to aim to genuinely satisfy the four renewable appetites (and all the minor ones as well) rather than playing games with these appetites. Deliver the goods, not a fancy illusion of them.

I have nothing against spending money to augment the satisfaction of our needs - that's fun! But we should remember that, from the consumer perspective, there are a great many ways to get satisfied daily without spending a dime.

We can attain hours of remarkable sexual and sensual pleasure and satisfaction and not spend a penny. Sleep's likewise free - movement too. And healthy food is often cheaper than pre-processed stuff, especially when cooked (great fun!) at home.

In Sum: Whenever we feel an appetite rising up anew, we do have the choice to consciously assess the best ways to most directly, enjoyably, and healthily satisfy that hunger. And businesses that choose to help us honestly and effectively satisfy our primary urges will succeed with a solid foundation and ongoing gusto.

Do you agree, or are you seeing this differently?

John Selby PhD
Author Website
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