The need to purchase and consume goods and services has been around for several millennia now. However, consumption patterns have evolved as individuals have ingeniously devised innovative means to assist them to make their lives more simple and comfortable, as well as to use their resources in a more efficient manner. The consumption patterns have transformed over time and are today influenced by actors controlling them (Solomon, 2014). Many people are increasingly acquiring goods and services beyond their need. This paper attempts to analyze the increasing level of consumerism and two factors underlying this increasing drive to acquire more goods and services the abundance of marketing activities and the need for social recognition.
Today, individuals are heavy consumers of a variety of goods and services having shifted their consumption pattern beyond basic needs to incorporate luxury products and technological innovations in the attempt to improve efficiency (White & Dahl, 2007). Such consumption that extends beyond minimal and basic needs might not actually be a bad thing in and of itself because, since time in history, human beings have had the tendency to look for ways of making their lives better and easier to live (Ceraso, 2011; Solomon, 2014). However, the tremendous increase in the consumption is becoming even more irrational. At this point in time, consumers are increasingly enlarging their consumption basket drastically to include a significant number of not only non-essential commodities but also very expensive products (White & Dahl, 2007; Solomon, 2014). This consumerist pattern is caused by several factors.
First, the abundance of marketing activities influences the increase in the need to acquire more goods and services. In analyzing this effect, it is imperative to contemplate on important questions. What factor or actors influence how and why goods and services are produced? What factors or actors influence the choice of consumption? Marketing activities constitute one of the influential actors seeking to maintain control over consumption. The increased advertising activities play a major in establishing and maintaining a consumerist society (Solomon, 2014). Although advertising has existed has existed as an effective practice to promote goods and services for about a century, it has transformed into an intense force competing with education and religion in creating and shaping human needs, values and aspirations (Grad, 2014).
Economists often justify as an effective source of insights into consumer behavior in terms of the products and services available in the marketplace (Powers, 2016). Although it actually performs that role, it does much mire as well. Advertising activities appeal to a wide range of values, to both emotional and practical needs, to diverse desires and fantasies. The abundance of advertising activities that the public encounter all carry their distinct messages, but on a critical analysis, they share a common objective selling the joys of purchasing, promoting the perception that buying goods and services, in itself, is an inherently pleasurable activity (Murdock, 2013). That portrayal of buying as a pleasurable activity encourages consumerism.
Modern advertising (production) nuggets the economic theory, as it creates the wants it seeks to justify to the public. In this perspective, consumption cannot defend the urgency of the production. Instead, advertising activities simply fill a void or satisfy wants that it has itself created. The multitude advertisements seem to demand that the public makes consumption a way of life, that people convert the purchasing and use of products into rituals, that individuals derive their spiritual and ego satisfaction from consumption (Grad, 2014). Adverts are constantly customized to the target consumer to keep up with their target consumers (Powers, 2016). Advertisers identify the unique needs of their target customers and their associations of brands and goods before the audience becomes conscious of their intended motive (Solomon, 2014). The diverse advertising media are not only constantly changing, but also every growing to get in touch with their target clients, and adapts to effectively attract an audience (Powers, 2016). The abundance of advertising activities makes people believe that they need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever worrying rate. They propagate the belief that life is in dire need of the product (Grad, 2014). As a result, the consumerist mindset is deeply ingrained into the everyday life and visual culture of the societies in which human live, often in ways that people do not even recognize (Murdock, 2013).
The bombardment of the public with convincing messages about brands, such as clothes, cars, sporting equipment, phones and computers, shoes etc. is a good example of advertising strategy to influence consumer behavior. The tactical design and positioning of such messages often seek to maximize exposure and motivate purchase of the brands. For example, Apple, Inc. claims that the Apple iPod is elegant and easy to use, besides having the capabilities of what an ordinary PC does, only better. Also, the LV ad called Louis Vuitton Core Values Where Will Life Take You? Utilizes a subtle and artistic theme to convey the impression that buying the brand can help the consumer to choose the right path of life, creating a need-based purely on what LV brand can do for the buyer.
Second, the increasing human need for recognition and definition explains the increasing drive to acquire more goods and services. Research reveals that consumption today assist in defining people and answering who they are (Cesaro, 2011). Therefore, brands influence the transfer of perceptions into reality, hence encouraging people to consume based on fashion and social influence in order to fit in the society (Solomon, 2014). These themes demonstrate how the need for social recognition and self-identity perpetuate consumerism.
Brands portray self-identity. Consumers willingly choose to buy allows them to determine what they purchase based on their personality, preferences, and desired look, among other factors (Solomon, 2014). This is to a large extent true because people can purchase what they want (within their financial limits) and their identity is naturally formed through consumption. The significance of brands as a portrayal of self-identity in the consumerist society constitutes a socioeconomic phenomenon developed predominantly from the human perception of identity through self-image (White & Dahl, 2007). The established reputation of diverse brands serves as a mediator between people and the public eye. Many consumers associate their self with brands like Nike, Coca-cola, McDonald's, Luis Vuitton (LV), Starbucks, and Apple, among other reputable brands, allowing them to portray the desired image or reveal they're true personality. For example, LV is a prominent branding many consumers embrace to create and portray self-identity. Enjoying international recognition and its logo exuding wealth and luxury, LV is typically associated with celebrities and wealthy individuals. The brand has the ability to charge exorbitant prices, a strategy it utilizes to stress the status of its consumers. LVs reputation brings with it connotations the consumers takes on when buying the brand. Therefore, this association of self-image with established brands increases the need to acquire more and more of such luxury and fashionable goods and services in order to enhance their social recognition.
In conclusion, it is imperative to observe that many individuals are today heavy consumers of a variety of goods and services with an increased focus from minimal and less basic products to more luxurious products. As depicted from this analysis above, this consumption that extends beyond minimal and basic needs is largely encouraged by the prevalent marketing activities and the increased human need for social recognition and self-definition. The tremendous increase in the consumption of goods and services is more irrational.
Ceraso, A. (2011). Postscript on contribution societies. Criticism, 53(3), 499-515.
Grad, I. (2014). Religion, advertising, and production of meaning. Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, 13(38), 137.
Murdock, G. (2013). 7 Producing Consumerism. Critique, Social Media, and the Information Society, 23, 125.
Powers, D. (2016). Advertising and Consumerism. A Companion to Popular Culture, 38, 343.
Solomon, M. R. (2014). Consumer behavior: Buying, having and being (Vol. 10). Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
White, K., & Dahl, D. W. (2007). Are all out-groups created equal? Consumer identity and dissociative influence. Journal of Consumer Research, 34(4), 525-536.
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