Eat, Pray, Love - and Spend

The Popular Book and Movie Have Inspired Hundreds of Themed Products.

ByABC News
August 16, 2010, 1:26 PM

Aug. 16, 2010— -- "Eat Pray Love," Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of her journey of self-discovery after her divorce, has resonated with readers all over the world. It has sold more than 7 million copies, and the film based on the book had a strong opening at the box office this weekend.

Watch "World News" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

In the book and movie, Gilbert -- played by Julia Roberts on-screen -- travels to Italy to indulge in its culinary delights; to India to find her spiritual self; and to Indonesia, where she meets the man who eventually becomes her husband.

"I think that it was just a kind of accidental intersection where it turned out where exactly the same things that I was thinking about, worrying about, trying to figure out, seemed to be precisely what was on everyone else's mind in that particular moment," Gilbert told ABC News about the reasons for the books' success.

Readers have opened their hearts to Gilbert's message of finding happiness within themselves -- but will they also open their wallets? Marketers hope so; they've made some 400 products available for them to choose from. From gelato machines to floor rugs, there is Italian, Indian and Indonesian-themed merchandise so consumers can have their own -- albeit less dramatic -- "Eat Pray Love" experiences.

Fresh, the high-end beauty store, spent over a year developing products in line with the movie, like perfumes promising "a journey for the senses." The Home Shopping Network even ran 72 straight hours of "Eat Pray Love" sales programming. Marketers are cashing in on the built-in audience that comes with the book and film, and the power of the female consumer.

"The marketing for 'Eat Pray Love' really sets the new norm for future marketing," said Prof. Peter Sealey of the Peter F. Rucker Graduate Management School at Claremont Graduate University. "The extent of the merchandising tie-ins and the depth of tie-ins really hits a new high. We'll see more of that in the future."

A backlash is brewing, though, with some objecting to the commercialization of such a personal experience. Readers find that this kind of marketing goes against everything that the book stands for: the idea that individual happiness comes from within.

Even the author found it unnerving.

"It's weird for me to go into Starbucks and see the 'Eat Pray Love' soundtrack for sale," Gilbert said. "This thing that started as this deeply intimate, private journey has obviously expanded into something I outgrew a long time ago."

Gilbert, however, also says that some of these products could substitute for the extravagant trip she took.

"Most people don't have the resources to be able to go travel around the world for an entire year," she said. "Maybe buying a candle that reminds you of that story is as close as they can get to that."

'Eat Pray Love' -- and Spend?

But can you really shop your way to happiness?

Recent studies on consumption and happiness show that people are happiest when they spend money on experiences, like trips or sporting events that they will remember forever, instead of material objects like a new pair of shoes.

In a study appropriately titled "If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It Right," researchers found that when they asked people to reflect on a past expense, "individuals experienced elevated mood when contemplating a past experiential purchase relative to those contemplating a past material purchase."

And that experience keeps making you happy as you reflect on it. Not so when you think back to those shoes you bought.

Perhaps your money is best spent on the "Eat Pray Love" vacation package to Bali. Spirit Quest Tours consolidates Gilbert's experience, complete with a visit to her spiritual teacher, Ketut Liyer, and lunch with her friend Wayan. For $2,400, the tour promises to "change your life, too."