What you buy is what you are

What you buy is what you are.

Taken literally the above statement seems to propose that should we be given the chance to measure someone’s purchases, possibly by rooting through their shopping basket or supervising their recognition card activity, we would get down to be able to organize an apprehension of their features and what they are like as a individual. To some extent this is a just remark, a consumer who orders steak and french friess at a eating house is clearly a carnivore and non a vegetarian, which can be an index of their societal values and lifestyle picks. Similarly our consumer picks can associate to our societal location in life in relation to things like age and gender. For illustration, a consumer who purchases tampons for their ain usage is demoing us they are a adult female old plenty to be holding a catamenial rhythm. However, whilst these are relevant points, consumer civilization is much more complex. How consumers spend their money can hold a immense impact on society and by taking the clip to understand why people buy the things they do, and if so they are a representation of who they are, so there could be immense benefits in relation to economic experts pull offing to derive a ‘heads up’ as to how market demands will be influenced in the hereafter.

The consumer civilization has, like everything else, evolved throughout the old ages. Since World War II the vehicles used for mass communicating have increased dramatically. The figure of telecasting Stationss has risen and go on to make so, the Internet has become about standardised in every family and concern, and even nomadic phones can convey wireless programmes and receive updates on intelligence and athletics etc through the medium of text messages. Because of this, advertisement and selling strategies are pull offing to make more and more people, more and more often. Whether this influences market demands is interesting to see, particularly in relation to the statement ‘what you buy is what you are.’ Advertising and selling techniques are frequently criticised for pull stringsing the consumer into purchasing things they don’t truly want. Swiss theoretician Ferdinand Saussure identified a general scientific discipline of marks known as semiotics or semiologies. Simply defined,

‘Semiology draws attending to the beds of intending which may be embodied in a simple set of representations.’ ( Jary J & A ; Jary D, 1999 )

In relation to advertisement and marketing the usage of certain marks can assist to exemplify an image and if that image seems appealing to the consumer so they may be more likely to buy the point. This is non done on mass. An advert is seldom designed to appeal to everyone, instead they plan whom they will aim and so market that image in relation to them. There are many ways of profiling audiences, we will discourse merely two. The first being demographic profiling. Grouping people together in footings of their age, gender, category and economic position. This is possibly the most simplistic manner of specifying an audience because it assumes that everyone within a group has the same attitudes. In relation to this treatment you could reason that the gross revenues schemes employed here back up it because they are presuming we are drawn to things because of who we are socially ( our societal location ) . However in contrast to this, because we are being sold an image on the footing of marks which may be unrealistic, you might reason that this doesn’t support the statement because we are being duped and non purchasing things rationally in relation to what and who we are. Besides, because we are more vulnerable to advertisement runs through the addition of mediums available to us it is possibly going more of an issue i.e. are we traveling off from purchasing things as a representation of who we are and traveling into a new epoch?

The 2nd manner that advertizers profile mark audiences which will be discussed, is through psychographic profiling. This is a motion off from wide audiences i.e. work forces or adult females, and more a motion towards categorizing people in footings of theirs demands and motive. Basically advertizers are taking to appeal an audience’s ability to place with their trade name. This can frequently convey about trueness from an audience towards a peculiar well-known trade name, such as Nescafe or Kelloggs. As a consequence of such an audience emerging, research workers have begun to categorize people, with those who show this type of trueness being nicknamed ‘mainstreamers’ .

‘This is the largest group. They are concerned with stableness and security, chiefly purchasing well-recognised trade names and devouring mainstream texts.’( Harris, S, 1996 )

Obviously who we are in footings of our consumer behavior is going characterised in itself, but merely if we are to believe that these schemes are successful.

Jean Baudrillard remarks on semiotics by associating these really two constructs. He explains that modern consumer civilization has embraced semiotics so much so that the mark and the trade good can frequently go per se linked and that the differentiation between image and world becomes lost. Baudrillard suggested that a hypereality had emerged. A‘new lingual status of society’whereby that which is alleged to be existent is really a forgery. How many adult females I wonder bought the hair merchandises advertised by Jennifer Aniston ( reformer of ‘the Rachel’ haircut back in 1996 ) believing that they would accomplish those criterions without taking into consideration the world that she likely had adept hairdressers on manus throughout the commercial. This in head, we find this motive behind consumer behaviors to stand in direct contrast to theories behind the undertaking of modernness. This thought of modernness historically refers to the period since the Renaissance and focused on the end of holding a rational society. Since the behavior of buying an point in order to conform to an unrealistic image seems irrational, it seems that modernness is slightly deficient. Indeed modern society is arguably being replaced by a post-modern society.

Post-modernism is a hard construct to specify and frequently heatedly debated, possibly because it’s really kernel is that it aims to reject conventional theories such as modernism. In relation to this argument nevertheless, it seems to hold become an progressively popular attack in explicating modern-day modern consumer civilization, because the construct of modernness is frequently attacked for being excessively idealistic. If we are to anticipate that people will buy things rationally it seems we are stating that human nature is rational. We are fundamentally back uping the statement that what you buy is what you are, nevertheless it seems that worlds are non rational existences and do purchase things irrationally without thought to world. Indeed it seems that the bulk of us own a recognition card, have an overdraft or loan of some sort outstanding, and this being the instance I would hold to inquire how much of that debt relates to purchases that were none indispensable or irrational. But whether this is a bad thing, I would hold to debate. It seems that our purchases are lending towards keeping the flow of our modern capitalist society. Indeed the research of Mike Featherstone supports this statement as will now be discussed. First he thought ingestion was encouraged. In order for production to happen the consumer must desire the things on offer, fundamentally he was placing the thought of supply and demand. If things don’t sell so really frequently they will no longer be produced. He so identified that certain consumer points could be hailed as a mark of societal position, in the same manner that the thoughts of semiologies were explained earlier, he thought that trade names could hold an agreed significance much like linguistic communication does, so that everyone would understand their intension. An obvious illustration would be the Porsche versus the Nissan Micra. The Porsche denotes to anyone looking at it that the proprietor will hold spent a batch of money to purchase the point and hence indicate that they are affluent. In this instance, the Porsche besides denotes a certain sum of ‘Playboy’ type sexy imagination for work forces as it is classically seen with immature beautiful adult females siting alongside the male driver. The Nissan Micra, a much more common topographic point auto, denotes merely that. Interwoven with this theory Featherstone suggested that this desire for certain points, interior decorator labels, fast autos, alien vacations etc, really motivated people to work. They could be seen as a end, for illustration with people taking higher up the company ladder in order to afford the more expensive auto. This possibly explains why, Featherstone subsequently suggested that ingestion acted as a major beginning of our pleasances and dreams.

In world if our lone demand is to have a auto that can take us to and from our chosen finishs, why would we needfully want a Porsche over a Nissan Micra. Both would be able to maintain within the national velocity bounds and both would be able acquire us at that place comfortably. Indeed, if anything differentiated the two, the Micra would necessitate less gasoline and hence afford us less disbursal, an illustration of a rational idea. The fact that many of us would take the Porsche or other similar vehicle ( if we had the agencies to buy it ) seems to propose that many of us back up this impression of ‘what we buy is what we are, ’ because apparently we want to set across a certain message to looker-ons.

This is rather an optimistic theory in that it seems to encompass the fact that people are irrational and do understand the construct of construing marks as they are portrayed to us within advertisement and selling strategies. Rather than merely being manipulated by gross revenues tactics, they are being driven and motivated by them and are hence congratulating the Capitalist society that they are populating in. If we are being sold the thought that we can gain things based on virtue, i.e. if we work harder and derive the publicity we will acquire the sexy auto with the Playboy life style. Then isn’t the thought of meritocracy being perpetuated within our consumer behavior as we continue to encompass these adverts and place with the images that they portray? If this is so the instance, so in relation to the statement that what we buy is what we are, are we non merely stating that we are a capitalist society who supports capitalist values of meritocracy and competition? If we purchased things rationally without thought to things like societal position, as modernism suggests we would germinate to, so it’s possibly just to state that we are stating we are a rational i.e. what we buy is what we are.

In decision to this treatment, I would propose that what we buy in footings of specific points, doesn’t ever needfully characterize us as an single individual. Ordering a vegetarian lasagna at a eating house does non needfully specify me as a vegetarian, but telling a steak dinner does state we are a carnivore. On a larger graduated table, if I buy things that are sold to me on the footing of desiring a certain image i.e. by subscribing up for the latest Birkin bag or nomadic phone I am back uping Capitalism and Western values. If I were to compare the consumer civilization of another state I would possibly see a really different political definition, and hence believe that what we buy is what we are as a political individuality.


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Ferguson, K ( 2002 )Essential Economicss: Hampshire: Palgrave

Harris, S ( 1996 )A-Level and AS-Level Sociology: London: Longman Limited

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