Vance Packard (1914 – 1996), writer and critic of consumerism

Consumerism - Vance Packard
Consumerism – Vance Packard

Vance Packard highlighted how Ad agencies used psychiatry, motivational research, and social sciences to create subliminal selling patterns.

Vance Packard (1914 – 1996) was an American writer who brought many of the less favourable effects of consumerism in the developed world to the public’s attention in a straightforward manner. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University in 1936, he started his career as a journalist writing for several newspapers and the Associated Press before becoming the editor of an American magazine from 1942 to 1946.

In 1957, he published The Hidden Persuaders, a vehement assault on the American advertising industry. He exposed how behavioural psychologists, colour consultants, and others could convince people to purchase goods they didn’t want or need. The Waste Makers: A Startling Revelation of Planned Obsolescence (1960), The Naked Society (1964), and The People Shapers (1965) were among the works that followed (1977). Packard was a member of a long line of critics of capitalist culture, stretching from John Ruskin and William Morris in the nineteenth century to Naomi Klein in the twenty-first.

Packard’s Hidden Needs

The Hidden Persuaders is one of the most famous books ever written, and it helped people understand how advertising works. Marketing experts have used Packard’s theory about our basic needs to manipulate us for almost a century. Emotional marketing is how ads try to get you to buy something by appealing to your feelings. But buying certain things rarely meets your wants or needs, so manipulation and the art of persuasion lead you into trap after trap.

Some of the hidden needs of Packard’s customers are emotional security, a sense of worth, and ego satisfaction. It says that products should give people a good, pleasant, and satisfying experience, take away some of the pain and discomfort of daily life and show that they care about things like home, family, durability, and safety.

People like to buy things that make them feel good, look better, or give them a rush of endorphins. The marketing industry knows that to keep a customer’s attention. They have to keep pleasing their egos. To do this, they give people ways to be creative, things that make them feel good, things that remind them of their childhood, and a sense of power. Some people also want to buy things that give them an image of being powerful and important (Vance Packard and His Eight Hidden Needs of the Consumer, 2023).


Vance Packard and His Eight Hidden Needs of the Consumer. (2023, January 14). Exploring Your Mind.

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

Design Store on Consumerism (the irony)

More on Vance Packard

Vance Packard, 82, Challenger of Consumerism, Dies (Published 1996)

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.

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