Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dress To Impress!

I keep thinking about the Rebel Sell article by Dr. Joseph Heath that I have written about twice now in this blog.
Does Your Identity Come From Advertising?
My Identity Does Not Come From Advertising

To remind you he wrote the following:
"What we need to see is that consumption is not about conformity, it’s about distinction. People consume in order to set themselves apart from others. To show that they are cooler (Nike shoes), better connected (the latest nightclub), better informed (single-malt Scotch), morally superior (Guatemalan handcrafts), or just plain richer (bmw)."

I would suggest that in addition to people attempting to buy their distinctive identity from advertising, these consumers also believe they can impress others with their purchases. Why buy an expensive car if people don't care?

One of the specific goals of all advertising is to make us self-conscious and a bit afraid of how others might view us. Advertisers know that people are terrified of being embarrassed, for example. Fear of embarrassment is ranked above the fear of death in some studies! However, as usual, the advertisers offer a solution. Just buy their products and you can be confident and secure and you won't need to worry any more.

Amazing when you think about it. The advertisers have worked at making us insecure and then offer a solution to that insecurity. How convenient.

But they have sold us a phony bill of goods as usual. The assumption is that people will notice if you are not wearing the latest and the greatest, that others will know what brands you wear and that people will think less of you if you do not own top products.

I suspect that few people could tell you what brand of clothing others wear unless the label is on the outside. And that is, of course, why manufacturers started putting the label where the public could see it.

And how many people could tell you what year a car was made if given a parking lot full of autos made at different times? I doubt if many would get a passing grade.

My point is this: Advertisers have sold us another fiction. The fiction is that people will take note, will judge you or will care about the specific products you own. However, advertisers have succeeded only in scaring buyers into believing this because the public really doesn't know or care.

After writing most of this blog article, I remembered an odd incident when I was in high school. In the 1950s pupils were required to wear coats and ties. One of the students was obsessed with the idea of high class brand-name clothing. He would come up to a classmate and quickly open his coat so that he could read the label below the inside pocket. We all thought he was very odd, sort of a brand name nerd. But in any case it was clear that he could not tell the quality or brand of our jackets just by looking. And by doing this he revealed the secret that advertisers don't want you to know. Most people cannot tell even if they are brand-name self-conscious.

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