Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Week 5

American Mass Culture
Week 6

Identities and Consumption












       People create ‘the self’ and social identities in a social context – in a society of other people and cultures and classes



       Social identities are role identities – bicyclist, Italian food chef, military history fan, fashion chaser, foodie, birder, jazz fan, gamer, mother, father, boss, employee, security guard, factory worker, salesman, policeman, gangster, teacher, artist, photographer


       Consumption is the most important way people participate in and communicate these social identities and selves.



In modern society consumers are…


       Creating and managing self-images

       Changing, adding, dropping identities constantly

       Moving in and out of different social contexts



Consequences –

       greater individualization and atomization of consumers and markets

       Commodification – loss of tradition




    Anthony Giddens argues that consumers face many choices but have few foundations for choosing.


    Thus, lifestyle becomes important – lifestyle being a constantly updated narrative of personal identity.




           What do big US brands sell?






Branded lifestyles

       Starbucks EVERYTHING

Starbucks airline coffee, office coffee, coffee ice cream, coffee beer.

incorporating marketing into every fibre of its corporate concept-from the chain's

strategic association with books, blues and jazz to its Euro-latte vocabulary





       Scott Bedbury, Starbucks' vice president of marketing, says that "consumers don't truly believe there's a huge difference between products," which is why brands must "establish emotional ties" with their customers through "the Starbucks Experience."


       Starbucks sells “the romance of the coffee experience”


Nike using images…




       The photographic image normalises and naturalises cultural meanings concealing their constructed nature from us.


Branded Lifestyles









-- using superstars to sell the idea of sports

-- marketing perfect male bodies as symbols of “transcendence and perseverance”

-- branding, branding, branding


-- The body as the expression of identity

-- insider knowledge and uncommon skills

-- speed, power, strength – performance

-- INDIVIDUAL success through striving “just do it” “write the future”

-- Nike appeals to the deep emotional connection people have to sports and to the health and fitness of their own bodies and display of their bodies


       Nike went through a change in the late 1980s and early 1990s

       Phil Knight, CEO:
"For years we thought of ourselves as a production oriented company, meaning we put all our emphasis on designing and manufacturing the product. But now we understand that the most important thing we do is market the product. We've come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool."


       the inspiration of sports allows us to rebirth ourselves constantly."




       "Polaroid‘s problem,“ said the chairman of its advertising agency, John Hegarty, "was that they kept thinking of themselves as a camera. But the '[brand] vision' process taught us something: Polaroid is not a camera-it's a social lubricant."




       IBM isn't selling computers, it is selling business "solutions."


       Swatch is not about watches, it is about the idea of time.



       Diesel Jeans owner Renzo Rosso told Paper magazine, "We don't sell a product; we sell a style of life. I think we have created a movement.... The Diesel concept is everything. It‘s the way to live, it's the way to wear, it's the way to do something."



       Body Shop founder Anita Roddick explains her stores aren't about what they sell, they communicate a grand idea — a political philosophy about women, the environment and ethical business.


       Tommy Hilfiger … is in the business of signing his name. The company is run entirely through licensing agreements, with Hilfiger commissioning all its products from a group of other companies: Jockey International makes Hilfiger underwear, Pepe Jeans London makes Hilfiger jeans, Oxford Industries make Tommy shirts, and the Stride Rite Corporation makes its footwear. What does Tommy Hilfiger manufacture? Nothing at all.


       Naomi Klein No Logo:

       “The idea of selling the courageous message of a brand, as opposed to a product, intoxicated these CEOs, providing as it did an opportunity for seemingly limitless expansion. After all, if a brand was not a product, it could be anything!”

Branded Lifestyles

       Lifestyle is about constantly reinventing the company and the brand

       Creating emotional connection to the brand in the mind of the consumer

       Enabling consumer to see and experience it as an identity and an individual choice

Branded Lifestyles

       Public Spaces and community events constantly invaded by brands that “sponsor” community events and activities

       The Media is dominated by corporate needs and corporate power – criticism of powerful corporations in the corporate media is rare

       Most people become unaware of how corporations control public space and accept public space as the place where corporations carry out activities


What are we consuming….

       A material element and a symbolic element.

       About more than the satisfaction of 'needs'

       images, feelings, fantasies, myths

       Status, class, and lifestyle.

       Consumption creates outgroups and Others.


Consumption and Status

       Consumption = symbolic marking out of status groups

       Mary Douglas: objects mark out symbolic status





Conspicuous Consumption

       Thorstein Veblen 1889 –

       conspicuous consumption  --

       WIKI: spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth.



       engaged in by all groups but especially lower and middle income groups,

       conspicuous consumption is behavior whereby an individual can display wealth through extensive leisure activities and luxury expenditure on consumption and services.

       an individual's conspicuous consumption depends not only on the actual level of spending but also spending compared with that of others.


Think about Facebook


       I’m in Paris!! Prague!!! Frankfurt!!!!

       Look at my new _____

       I’m eating at _____!!!!!

       Look at ____!!!!!




        In “The Economic Theory of Women’s Dress” (1894), Veblen writes that the three cardinal principles of women’s dress are:



    ineptitude:  “it must afford prima facie evidence of incapacitating the wearer for any gainful occupation” (72-73)