On some level, everyone is a consumer. You can be the staunchest anti-consumerist in the world, but at the end of the day, I’ll still see you in the toilet paper aisle.
A consumer marketing principal is that you (the consumer) purchase items with three “heads.” Your mind, which regulates the consumption of rational, or even survival items, such as deodorant, toothpaste, and food. A good deal of the companies that fall into this category are known as CPG, or Consumer Based Good brands (such as Unilever – which makes all of the products I just listed.)
The second place a consumer purchases an item from is their heart. These items are, you guessed it, products you love. You see a shirt, or a jacket, or a phone case, or whatever, and you want it – so you buy it.
At its core, the difference between the mind and the heart fundamentally seem pretty small, since they are both examples of consumerism. However, the defining difference here is that you don’t really need the stuff you want. This means that the products themselves are the differentiators between classes. The products in this class also do not cary much social-value. Who cares what brand of flip-flops you wear?
No one. So I’m not going to pay much attention to these two classes. For the context of what I’m talking about, they’re not important. The type of deodorant you wear doesn’t define your social status. The fact that you wear it does.
The third and final place consumers purchase items from is their genitals. These are items that, for whatever reason, you really really want. These products are luxury items, and generally speaking, they cost the most to own out of the three categories. These, more than any other products in existence, act as status symbols. A $20,000 Rolex, and a $20 Timex fundamentally do the same thing, but a Rolex says you’re well-off, and a Timex says you were recently in a CVS.
And it doesn’t even have to be something as extreme as a watch that costs more than my car, either. If you own an iPhone, statistically, you are perceived as more wealthy and well educated than your friend with an android.
This is great for brands, because often they make the most profit out of products in this class. One example of this is Porsche, who makes a higher profit per each car sold than almost any other auto maker in the world.
Now the question is, how does this correlate into our income inequality problem in America.
As it turns out, studies show that the people who cannot afford the items in the third class, are the people who often seek them out the most. This study found that Google searches for luxury items are higher in states with more income inequality.
Does this mean there is a direct correlation to poverty and Google searches for Gucci? No. However, it does shine light on the research patterns of the haves and the have-nots. Literally, more people google aspirational products in states where there are more extreme examples of poverty.
What this says is that people want — prepare yourself for a technical term here — crap. Our society places a heavy value on material positions. And the more expensive the item, the higher social value it brings to the consumer.
I was curious to see how much a t-shirt from Gucci cost. So I looked it up. $850. For those who care about fashion, it’s impossible to stay en-vogue without having deep pockets, or a second mortgage. It’s for this reason that cheap fashion is starting to rise, though it has a nasty dark side. The human cost to produce an economical but trendy fashion product is astronomical. The clothing in Walmart is literally created in sweat shops, forcing workers to work in inhumane and hazardous conditions, all for a t-shirt.
So, now that we have outlined a problem here, how is it fixed?
I’m not sure. There really is no Call to Action here. There’s no rally against consumerism; you’d just look crazy. I think the most important way to deal with the dark side of consumerism is to deal with it piece by piece. Address sweatshops, and than move on from there, for example.
The first step is knowledge, and, since you made it this far in my blog post, I can only assume you have left with a little more knowledge on the subject — which is good.
However, this is our last blog… which is bad. So, as I, the student must go off and forge new paths ahead, you, the reader must also do the same. You have done something to lead you to this blog, which is great. But it’s now your turn. Take it from here.