Rene Girard introduced this concept many years ago. The word mimetic is derived from the word “mime” which means “to imitate life”. The principle demonstrates how we get hoodwinked into buying “stuff”. (a.k.a. “keeping up with the Jones’s.”)
For example, let’s say there’s a lonely bachelor named Steve. Steve has a neighbour that owns a dalmatian dog. Steve sees the neighbour & his girlfriend walking the dog. Because Steve likes the image that it represents, he makes the assumption that by getting a dalmatian dog, he too will be able to enjoy an “ideal” life and possibly even attract a girlfriend. In other words mimetic desire is “a desire to imitate the life that we think another person has”.
What Steve doesn’t know is, his neighbour isn’t happy with his own circumstances. In truth, he finds the dog to be a burden & he also wants to “dump” his girlfriend so he can spend more time with buddies. Instead of taking his girlfriend on dates, he spends their time together on these “dog walks” hoping SHE will end the relationship, and he won’t look like the bad guy. (Typical male, eh?!)
Marketing people use mimetic desire all the time (although not necessarily aware of it). One example is before Christmas you’ll see a television advertisement of kids having fun with Dad & Mom, playing some ridiculous board game. Many kids are so starved for attention they figure, “if Santa brings me the game...I’ll have the same quality time with my Dad & Mom”.
It doesn’t stop at kids’ toys. Buyer beware! Next time you're making a purchase you might want to ask,..."Do I really need this, or am I buying due to some mimetic desire?".