Arthur Schopenhauer is a philosopher known mainly for pessimistic memes discouraging us from taking action. It turns out, however, that his thoughts are surprisingly well aligned with the reality of a marketer’s job.

Schopenhauer devised a system, which aptly describes the way we act. He noticed a force inherent in human beings, which he called the will to live (German: Wille zum Leben). One can either confront this force or follow it – most of us opting for the latter, since it is when we are given a chance to manifest our will by constantly struggling with adversities that we feel at our best. Consequently, we proceed from one deficiency to another and as it happens, we become better equipped to handle adverse circumstances along the way. When experiencing deficiency, we also tend to feel the need to remedy it and mitigate the state of the resulting tension as our will to live is a manifestation of the ultimate desire. To all intents and purposes, the only time when we are free from this force are the moments of aesthetic contemplation of nature or art. These are our only moments of respite.
Dear Marketer – if you are reading these words, you are likely wish you could high-five Mr. Schopenhauer!

Human dreams are driven by our will to live

Why should one even bother, if we all are going to die one day? This is how Schopenhauer’s philosophy is interpreted in the way that not only simplifies but even completely distorts the ideas put forward by this great thinker. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher, who became famous as a proponent of a system that aimed to explain human behaviours. The core category around which he built his concept was the will to live a force that determines all human activity. Schopenhauer was far from promoting resignation and passive anticipation of death – in fact, his ‘will to live’ is praises the human ability to adapt to circumstances.

The notion can be understood as an uncontrollable urge toward self-preservation. What it entails is not only the desire to avoid death (that each of us wants to survive is beyond any doubt) but also the willingness to pursue a ‘better’ life – by making it better. According to Schopenhauer, the entire hostile world keeps mounting difficulties for us to confront and yet, since our desire to live prevails, we eventually always succeed in adapting to the new conditions and overcoming adverse circumstances. This is also how you could generally characterise the marketing profession – as a continued struggle with difficulties, dynamic and full of change.

Your strength comes from discomfort

Schopenhauer claimed that all willing stems from suffering – which means that each action which is good for us is preceded by the state of discomfort. To give you an example: the feeling of hunger [suffering] makes you eat [benefit]. Our will to live manifests itself in our attempts to stop an unpleasant experience. To this end, we do not choose death but instead, we try a number of techniques that decrease our discomfort at any given moment. Experiencing deficiency, this is how we attempt to attain fulfillment – just like marketers, who propose ready solutions to those who do not want to look for them themselves.

However, according to Schopenhauer our efforts never bring us to the state of happiness – they only help us sort out some problems as they occur. One problem solved is always replaced by another – ‘The ceaseless efforts to banish suffering achieve nothing more than a change in its form” , as Schopenhauer put it. It is just what marketers face on a daily basis: constant challenges, unexpected situations, varied and not always intuitive tasks – their job involves a continued pursuit of transcending their own limitations.

Devastating monotony of habit

As it was mentioned before, suffering or distress always come before our willingness to improve the situation. However, if we are constantly exposed to what we see as adverse circumstances, we slowly begin to take them in our stride. Consequently, we end up being desensitised to the negative factor – this is how we make our lives easier to live. Just as we do not want to get stuck in a rut, we do not like sticking to one solution for too long. Even the prettiest and newest car will finally lose its appeal and become boring. It is where marketers can come to your rescue as they do the lion’s share of work in the pursuit of brand-new products or services suitable for you.

As you develop you achieve your goals

Schopenhauer demonstrates that even though we are in a state of constant tension, we have some amazing powers, which allow us to overcome practically any obstacles and that continuous improvement in an inherent part of human life. There were times when the will to live expressed itself mainly in the struggle for survival. Of course, today we no longer need to choose between life and death. Still, some traces of that historical struggle have remained in our lives to this day – we keep grappling with some more or less ideal conditions in which we work, spend our time or live. Paradoxically, this is the best part of our human existence. The feeling of relief that comes with successfully coping with a crisis is critical to our experience of complete satisfaction. It is then that you see how much impact your actions have had on you and how you have developed.

This trait – albeit at a higher level – is also a requisite for success in performing marketing duties. When faced with a new situation, you are likely to experience both fear and a thrill of positive emotions – you are, to put it differently, in constant stress. In such cases, fighting and attempts at winning with the new factor are the only logical consequence – both self-development and the feeling of triumph from a task well done come as obvious and long-awaited.

The experience of nature and art makes you stop fighting

Schopenhauer considers the aesthetic contemplation of beauty to be a unique departure from the principle of desire for self-preservation. Admiring paintings or landscapes makes us stop thinking about adversities and the ways of combating them. We do not know whether Mr Schopenhauer would agree with the statement that marketing itself – or the idea underlying it – exists for the sole purpose of offering people some respite. Why? Because it allows one to forget about reality and offers a promise of a better life as it visualises our desires. Marketing is equivalent to a mountain hike or a visit to a museum. And how about this idea being expressed through the regular visits to numerous conferences and team-building events a typical marketer attends?

Be like Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer makes a perfect patron of marketers. His philosophy fits in perfectly with their day-to-day working routine. Marketing professionals have to face up to numerous difficulties and adapt to ever-changing conditions which – owing to the specific nature of the profession – can be completely unfamiliar, as their activity is still only being properly recognised (e.g. all kinds of social media). To be a great marketer, you will have to take Schopenhauer’s ideas to heart and act accordingly – turning all obstacles and adversities into success stories and adaptation in an environment which is still – possibly – unknown.