One of the newest texts on global consumerism will hit readers like a punch in the gut. Why? Because the author speaks of a reality much of the world lives in but does not check or often question. This reality is that of the inundation of the largest tech companies in the world into everyday life and modern society’s codependence on them.
Scott Galloway’s new text, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google is gaining a lot of attention. To watch a video version of his text and feel the emotion behind his written work, watch his TED talk from November 2017. As a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Scott Galloway has spent the last decade studying what he calls “the four horsemen.” Galloway is not frustrated with the four tech giants, though he does write and speak and teach with the hope that they be held accountable. In the Q&A after his TED Talk, Galloway shares his belief that the people working at the four are no better or worse than people at other companies. “But when you control ninety percent points of share in a market search that is now bigger than the entire advertising market of any nation; and you are primarily compensated in trying to develop economic security for you and the families of employees, you can’t help but leverage all the power at your disposal. And that is the basis for regulation and it is the basis for [the] truism throughout history, that power corrupts. They are not bad people, we have just let them get out of control.” Galloway advocates for electing leaders who will force corporations to be subject to the same scrutiny that the rest of business endures.
It is important to note, Galloway has not only studied these titans of industry, he has also started his own research and analytics company, L2 Inc., helping corporations around the world to capitalize on digital marketing techniques. So, although he has much to say about The Four, Galloway also has much to gain from his research of the industry in helping others profit from the success of The Four. Specifically, the latter sections of The Four emphasize a “don’t beat them, learn from them and make all the money you can” mentality, focusing on personal growth in areas such as emotional IQ, continuing to education, and pimping one’s career.
Naming the Four horsemen as the lords over humanity, our modern-day gods, Galloway connects each of the four to an organ in the body. The following picture is the first and last image Galloway shows in his marketing courses at NYU. Galloway explains it as the central organs targeted in the marketing of the online giants. Google reaches the brain as is the newest god we confide in, Facebook connects us with friends and loved ones and thus emotional needs, Amazon satisfies our needs for consumption, and Apple as the luxury brand, makes us look and feel sexy.
As a consumer of all four brands, I hate admitting the truth of Galloway’s text. I use Google to find remedies, recipes, and so much other random content. Facebook is something I am tethered to by the events I host, the groups I am in, the family that lives far away, and the connections (and comparisons) of life between me and my peers. From diapers to soap to books, Amazon is the first place I look for much of what we buy because it is cheap, quickly accessible, and arrives in two days or less. And finally, we have had Apple products since the iPhone first came out. Each of The Four are housed in apps on my phone and screens on my laptop.
What does it mean for me and the rest of the world that we are so attached to the Four?
The ease of use and seemingly free access to each of these brands makes them seem innocent and harmless. However, as Galloway has recognized, the aim of the Four is not benevolence. As he puts it, the four dominate the whole of the online experience and corporate world, utilizing the best and brightest with their sole mission being to sell. “It’s not their fault, it’s our fault. They are for-profit companies. They are not concerned with the condition of our souls.”
Consumer’s must take back our brains, bodies, and souls. Differentiation advocates we not blame these corporations for our behavior. We must own our part. The gift of Galloway’s text is creating awareness. Once we are aware, we have the opportunity to be discerning in our choices of consumption.
Caring for souls (and ultimately helping those souls to care for their bodies as well) is the job of the church, not corporations. And it is the role of the church to help people learn to care for their own soul, and the soul of their neighbor. John Wesley and the early band of Methodists were concerned with the state of the soul. Asking, “How does your soul prosper?” (or translated into slightly more modern language, “How is it with your soul?”), Wesley was concerned that disciples knew the content of their own heart and tended to it.
Jesus, in mentoring his disciples, cautioned them about temporal gain focused on the self, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life (soul)? Or what will they give in return for their life?”
How will the church innovate to tend to people’s souls in an era of the internet and mega-online brands? There is a temptation to ignore the effects of The Four on our churches, while at the same time allowing market economics to drive our vision. For a tax-exempt non-profit with a mission of caring for souls to first care for economic security, the church will inevitably have diminishing returns, especially upon the souls of its parishioners. It will also lose its prophetic voice to society. Maybe it’s time for the church to become aware of how it’s being co-opted by the market and learn from The Four on how to best live out its mission in the age of tech.
 Galloway, Scott. TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_galloway_how_amazon_apple_facebook_and_google_manipulate_our_emotions
 TED Talk https://www.ted.com/talks/scott_galloway_how_amazon_apple_facebook_and_google_manipulate_our_emotions
 Matthew 16:24-26