Zeitgeist of Now: Post-perfection — SuperPower Me
by Jason Stewart (@HaveYouHeard_SA) Society has reached a period in which it has access to more material wealth than ever before. This material wealth is not equally shared, and this has given rise to a segment of society in which everyone’s basic needs have been met, yet their list of desires grows unabated. Chief among these desires today is to keep progressing forward to become more than before. We call this SuperPower Me, and it definitely plays into the zeitgeist of now.
Driving this cultural shift is an obsession with success and unlimited progress. It’s influenced predominantly by technology with a 100% belief in science, with the aim for a person to become the most-extreme, high-performance version of oneself.
In many cases, however, these consumers are buying hope and a dream of superiority. As their focus is on doing whatever is necessary to improve performance, they’re not risk-averse and open to experimentation (no matter the potential health consequences). You will hear them talking about bodyhacking, biohacking, cyborgs, cold immersive therapy and even faecal transplants.
Biohacking as a lifestyle has exploded since 2010, growing into an almost religious cult of global enthusiasts looking for anyway to improve themselves and their abilities. The three most-popular types of biohacking are nutrigenomics (focuses on how the food you eat interacts with your genes), DIY biology (conducting structured experiments on yourself outside of a controlled experimental environment) and grinders (seeking to optimise your body with a combination of gadgets, chemical injections, implants, etc).
The lifestyle is seeping into mainstream culture, because it offers the hope of improved performance and is also hype-ably exciting and interesting. The perfect combination.
The reasons for the SuperPower Me trend are numerous. To quote Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it’s a definite part of achieving or progressing past self-actualisation, that state in which all needs are already met, and now we are searching to past what we need.
There is also a level of innocent narcissism. People have more freedom and time than ever before to think about only themselves and less about others. Starting families much later and having more economic wealth allows them to become more obsessive about their reaching new higher heights.
In the beginning
Initially, SuperPower Me was driven by the ‘analogue’, for example, by the likes of a Tim Ferris who promised you could build a life of your dreams by working effectively for four hours a week. Or by the plethora of click-bait content list-icle type articles promising you seven ways to a better/11 steps to a faster/four ways to build bigger etc. Back then, achieving SuperPower Me wasn’t truly possibly, but now it is, thanks to digital or technological advancements.
Consider this: there’s been a major evolution of our physical appearance over the past 20 years. Male sex symbols of the ’80s who represented what a ‘good body’ looked like would be considered underdeveloped today, compared to your average Joe.
The increased accessibility of high-performance gyms and workouts, combined with the use of supplements (natural, chemical and illegal), as well as the attitudinal focus on becoming ‘ripped’, spurred on through social media and its influencers, is literally reshaping the human form. In addition, women (and men) are now able to enhance their looks through non-plastic surgery additions such as lashes, and plastic surgery including fillers, boobs, bums and botox. It’s much easier for the average person to look like the sex bombshell of the previous generations.
And then technology has allowed for us to understand and know our bodies better. Through wearables (Apple watch, for example) we can gain enormous insight into how our bodies are functioning. Not only are we able to quantify performance (data point), we can access information, assistance and tech to directly improve that performance.
Technology also promotes engagement through gamification and rankings that have led to an addiction-level type of focus on performance.
Where are the brands? They are moving from helping us perform better (education or simple tools) to providing services and platforms (artificial intelligence, advanced tech) to perform better, to being biologically part of us (Crissper and others playing within the singularity theme).
- Post-perfection is deemed a realistic goal, with consumers searching for that edge; however, there is less room for “fakesters”, and performance needs to be proven, consistent and of value
- Data offers an opportunity for enhance performance and there’s a plethora of opportunities to provide service, platforms or ecosystems to enhance people’s abilities
- Whether consumers want to SuperPower themselves or not, they are always looking to progress and brands can assist in small but positive ways
- Counter trend: The pressure for post-perfection will have a rebellious counterswing as we have seen in beauty with the increasing drive towards ‘ugly and flawed’; however, this will always be in the minority.
Jason Stewart is co-founder of HaveYouHeard (@HaveYouHeard_SA), a full-service agency. Zeitgeist of Now, his new column on MarkLives, is inspired by the agency’s proprietary tool developed to understand the invisible but powerful forces that influence people, products, culture and societies. If we appreciate these, he argues, we become more-effective marketers.