Thursday, April 3, 2008

Conformity of Consumption. Fight it?

My group presentation centered on Joseph Heath’s and Andrew Potter’s The Rebel Sell article. As the article claims, “capitalism requires conformity to function correctly,” my presentation focused on conformity of consumption.

The theory that capitalism requires conformity to function properly centers on the idea of reducing costs by generating greater savings in the mass production of the product. This concept, known as economies of scale, is most successful when society is limited in its range of consumption, bringing the role of branding into play. With consumerism, driven by the force of advertising, companies that have greater access to the public can limit the alternatives of potential consumers. The brand name that consumers are most exposed to will determine the product that they will buy even if that product is not a necessity.

Heath and Potter describe how films such as Fight Club critique mass society. The character of Tyler Durden describes the influence of advertising on consumerism by stating, “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate, so we can buy the shit we don’t need” (Heath and Potter). It is the power of advertising – the idea that your life is not complete without a certain product – that creates both conformity and status among buyers. For instance, the belief that through advertising this wrinkle cream or that perfume will produce a youthful image attracts consumers.

The idea of branding relates to the question do you control your media? Although society’s members are able to control the type of media that is favored in terms of television, radio and reading, society is limited in choice by the cultural defining shows, music and articles that are broadcast and published. Branding works similarly as consumers are given the opportunity to select the brand that they buy among the limited competition of each product. It is through such limitation that consumers are forced to conform.

Do brands have the ability to characterize consumers? What are the result of those who challenge the dominant culture and the workings of mass society?

Heath, Joseph and Andrew Potter. “The Rebel Sell.” 3 March 2008

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