My second job after graduating from college was working for Chanel. Yes – the fashion company. I had majored in French and got my position as an assistant to the president because I would be answering many phone calls from France, and I needed to be prepared to launch into whichever language the caller preferred.
Anyway, one of my responsibilities was to cull through a stack of glossy magazines every morning until I found the Chanel ad. Then, I would place the open magazine on a stack in the president’s office for his review. (Now, if you’re thinking that this is beginning to sound like a job that’s a bit too simple for a college grad, you’ll be happy to know your line of thinking is right in line with mine. When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to hop departments, I took my perfume and cosmetic freebies, and a few heavily marked-down scarves and clothes, and politely scooted out of there in less than 6 months….but that’s another story.)
My point is this: at Chanel, we were selling a “look” and a “lifestyle.” Image truly was everything. Branding was the holy grail. Ad placement was critical to success and to maintaining the consumers’ faith that our products were superior, favored by a certain class of people, and likely to help users fit into that social niche as well. This is what targeting sales to a particular group is all about. You want your buyers to feel they are “in.”
Fast forward twenty years. I don’t have a single Chanel cosmetic in my home (I do have the scarves, I admit), but I’m still a consumer (and we all are) – just of a different sort. I don’t read many magazines…but here are the two currently on my coffee table:
I’m a sucker for these – Real Simple and Good Housekeeping. I even like the titles. I mean, really – who doesn’t want to “streamline your wardrobe and your space,” “get a discount on anything,” “clean anything,” find “great gifts,” have fun in the backyard, and make easy meals your kids will eat featuring roasted red peppers cut into star shapes???!! Me?!!? I’m doing all of this – this week!!
Right. Sanity break. Or mental break down.
So, why do I bring this all up? Well, those of you who read my blog regularly know that I write about my faith. And this morning, I was shuffling through the Word when I came across two passages which just really spoke to me. The first is this:
O Lord, our God, other lords than you have ruled us;
it is from you only that we can call upon your name.
– Isaiah 26:3
If we think we have “no other gods before Him” we are deceiving ourselves. How often have I allowed my desires to have the perfect home, wear just the right thing, or look a certain way to encroach upon or supersede entirely, God’s place of highest honor in my life and heart? This is a hard, hard question for me to face head on, because I have a long history of caring way too much about what others think of me. But I know that living like that, is living in chains.
The second passage is this one:
Every counselor points out a way, but some counsel ways of their own; Be on the alert when one proffers advice, find out first of all what he wants, For he may be thinking of himself alone; why should the profit fall to him? …
A man’s conscience can tell his situation better than seven watchmen in a lofty tower. Most important of all, pray to God to set your feet in the path of truth.
– Sirach 37: 7-8, 14-15
When I worked for Chanel, our offices were on the upper floors of a gleaming skyscraper overlooking Central Park in New York City. The taxicabs and buses below were miniature vehicles driving on gray lines around a green rectangle. Pedestrians resembled ants. From that vantage point, knowing we catered to an elite clientele, it certainly seemed like we were watchmen in a lofty tower.
But today I know – I don’t need watchmen – whether they’re conveying their counsel through magazines or over cups of coffee. Because, however well-intentioned or ‘fun’ it might be, the key for me is recognizing that I already have everything I need to make wise choices in my life. It’s about me, my conscience, and deepening my ongoing relationship with God.
Now that’s Real Simple.