Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.

Transcendence just may be the human equalizer. We are all searching for meaning to make sense of our days, and we go looking for it through our work, our causes, and our families. And if none of those do it for us, we turn to the products we buy.

Many a company counts on that, and they encourage you to give it a go through messaging that taps into our need for leaving a legacy. Buick uses this appeal as the basis of its new TV spot, called “What Matters.”


Buick is trusting that what matters to its target audience are the questions that haunt us about the meaning of life. The voiceover says:

“How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you have, but what you gave. What will matter is not your success, but your significance. What will matter is how long you will be remembered by whom and for what.”

Buick hopes to draw a connection between our need for transcendence (the desire to make a difference, which would make you someone who is long remembered) and the sort of person who would drive their car (someone who wants to be remembered for more than possessions, place, and success).

I like all that. I agree with the basic proposition. But after watching the spot a few times, my heart swell from the appeal, imagery, and music started to deflate. At the end of a moving ad, I am no closer to transcendence than before. If I want transcendence, I’ll need to get to work so I have some good vibes on deposit with family, friends, and acquaintances who will remember me when I’m gone.

Most people would hear Buick’s message and cheer. Life is about more than possessions, place, or success. But really, once we leave this life, what good does it do us if people think well of us? Their good vibes don’t make a bit of difference for us once we are gone.

What does make a difference is that we are remembered by God for all of eternity because we are hidden in Christ. It will matter that we are remembered for Christ’s perfect righteous, not our own. This is the sort of transcendence that counts.