Conspicuous Consumption

This blog will analyze and assess how customers are easily manipulated in
societies marketplace through conspicuous consumption. Over the years brands have been abled to influence their customers into buying needless merchandise, through advertising techniques. Packard (1957) studied contemporary social trends and indicated,

“As a public we began to be sold products, not because of their intrinsic qualities, but because of their symbolic significance to our wishes, our fears and hopes – our subconscious.”

Proclaiming that as individuals we buy goods to hide our insecurities and fulfill our desires as we try to fit into society. This theory is beyond 50 years old, however there are numerous examples that can support Packard’s concept.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s 2015 advert features a man and a woman holding each other intimately. Their target audience is most likely aimed at teenagers and young adults. Packard’s theory is undeniably applicable with this advert; A&F draw their shoppers showing that you’ll never get this attractive or popular unless you wear their brand. The advert reminds those who regard themselves as ‘popular’ if they don’t wear A&F jeans; popular social groups won’t accept you.

The Scarcity Principle (Investopedia, 2016) is another method of advertising that businesses use to persuade its customers in buying their products.

“When a product is scarce, consumers are faced with conducting their own cost-benefit analysis, since a product in high demand but low supply will likely be expensive […] he or she sees a greater benefit from having the product than the cost associated with obtaining it.”

During 2015 Adidas signed a deal with musician star Kanye West who is hugely admired by many for his music and clothing line. His ‘Yeezy trainers’ are somewhat special because you’re unable to buy them normally like you would with other branded shoes. Instead you need to line up at a given time like it shows above at 9am, as there is a limited amount available. It is clear that the ‘Scarcity Principle’ is being applied because consumers have to follow specific guidelines in order to buy these trainers. Therefore this makes the trainers much more desirable no matter the price, due to scarce level of ways in purchasing them. One would argue because a celebrity designs the trainers it stimulates fans and shoppers to be imbibed by conspicuous consumption, even if the money paid is past its value.

Rene Girard was a French historian, who designed the Mimetic Theory (Woody Belangia, 2015); he believed that

“based on the observable tendency of human beings to subconsciously imitate others and the extension of this mimesis to the realm of desire.”

Marilyn Monroe in 1950’s was considered one of the sexiest females in America. She took part in an advert for Tru-Glo makeup in 1953. A majority of American men in the 50’s idolized Monroe for her physique and appearance. This is a prime example that can be referred to Girard’s theory, women across the world would want to instinctively buy this make up and it would be Monroe who was responsible. This wasn’t because of the brands quality and ingredients, but because women had aspired to be and look like her. This impression draws their ‘desire’ to buying the make-up, similar to the previous advert with Kanye West’s shoes and how a famous icon can create an impact on someone’s perception on purchasing something.

Consumer’s consumption is a theory that has continued to grow over the years, starting from the 1950’s to 2016 you can see that adverts use them throughout. Companies have learnt to use advertising mischievously, where a consumer is unaware that they’re being controlled by brands. The power and growth of the media has helped companies use consumer consumption more effectively because shoppers are surrounded by advertisements.

Packard Vance (2000) The social construct. Available at: (Accessed: 4 April 2016).
Investopedia (2016) Scarcity Principle. Available at: (Accessed: 5 April 2016).  
Woody Belangia (2015) What is Mimetic Theory? Available at: (Accessed: 7 April 2016).

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