"Brand advertising is ubiquitous, brilliant and subversive. It taps into our deepest fears. Take L'Oreal's slogan: 'Because you're worth it.' In a world where you can feel just another statistic in the bureaucratic machine, where you can feel yourself teetering on the edge of worthlessness, where no amount of consumer rights or technological innovations can conquer the anomie at the heart of societies that fail to generate spiritual depth and personal meaning — who wouldn't want to feel that you are being given something 'because you're worth it'?

"Although this is the message that traditional religions once promoted — that you were a unique human being, with a soul, a divine spark within, that you were precious and valuable, of infinite worth just because you were here on earth, suffused with the spirit of being, alive and vital — we can now get that sense of worth over the counter. In a world where human life is disposable (see the daily news), the message that you can buy your sense of worth soothes disturbing inner doubts about our purpose here on earth.

"Brands have moved on from being simply about the qualities of the product or service they sell. They are now promoted as a set of values, a philosophy, an ideology of life. Orange represents a bright, optimistic future in which there can be real 'communication' between people. Nike is about individuality and personal achievements. Traditional religious values of honesty, dedication, friendship, human connectedness have been co-opted, secularized, repackaged and sold back to us. We no longer gain our integrity through a lifetime’s work on our souls, but by buying Benetton . . .

"The vanity of ownership replaces the humility of recognizing our smallness and impermanence. The vanity of possessions and looks and spurious achievements replaces the humbling acknowledgement that we come from the dust and return to the dust. The key word for brand consultants is ‘belief.’ A whole language has sprung up: brand bible, brand heaven, brand soul. This is the closest many people get to a religious world view. The evidence is that this is what is longed for—readily accessible pre-fabricated meaning. As soon as you link even basic products like food or shampoo to a metaphysical or spiritual idea the consumer will buy into it. To the extent that traditional religions in the West have failed to impart their essential values in ways to which we can relate, in the resulting vacuum we experience a spiritual thirsting after meaning and purpose, and an emotional hunger to feel good about ourselves.”