Corporate culture or capitalist culture has changed the dimensions of trivial lives. People are now constantly being reminded of their roles as active agents promoting and obeying the norms of capitalist culture. Grand corporations and leading global brands are extending their reach in their attempt to gain wide acclaim.
The changing patterns and perceptions have transformed modern society into a materialistic society. Brands know how to gain popularity in no time just by the skills of branding and conveying to the majority about what they exactly need to buy. This has impacted all the areas of life as people have started working hard for gaining as many luxuries as they can accommodate.
Based upon the capitalist notion, the standards of life and its resulting ideology are also shifted. Now the choice of luxuries is not just related to convenience, but it is considered an act of “being normal”. Well, it does look strange to accept this fact but the truth is that the choice and ownership of luxuries is the new normal in the world.
So many of the luxuries around us have become constant parts of our lives to an extent that life seems incomplete without them. This is not the need-driven reliance but we don’t want to appear an outcast among our peers. You can also see by yourself that a person who is financially weak among the peer groups is deemed as the weakest one and his/her social ties are also affected by this.
There has been much of a debate about the luxuries making us new individuals psychologically as well as physically. Various scholars often relate it to our increasing needs for validation but in the business world, it is considered a good omen for the brands who are already preaching about them globally.
Role of media
There is absolutely no doubt in the statement that the media has a very big role in making us conscious about our needs other than the vital necessities. The modern business strategy works on advertising the clients about products and telling them about the significance of a product that is missing from their life. This principle is working very brilliantly in the mainstream market since people are recognizing the absence of millions of products that they never even knew before.
The art of the sale
This is called an intelligent shot. A good businessman is a person who creates something for the people and then preaches to the people that the product is for the people and hence the capitalist hold grows stronger than ever by the people. This market is all about the art of selling a product. If you have the skills to present products not by their nature but by their uniqueness and branding, you are already learning to build up a career so strong in the business world.
As the importance of effective branding and associated skills is growing, many people are shifting their concerns to get their hands on the latest luxuries. It is never because they might be in need of them but because they want to maintain their social circle which is primarily influenced by the number of salary figures and luxuries these days.
Classes & Hierarchy
This also gives birth to the difference in economy class on the basis of the luxuries one can afford. These economic classes though initially were because of the undivided distribution of wealth and a limit of authority but eventually became social classes bearing a society of their own. The elites or the upper class are at the top of the tier when it comes to enjoying life on the basis of capital and the working class lies at the bottom.
Thorstein Veblen, a student of sociology originally hailing from the economic background was curious to find out such a division existing in one single society at the same time. Though just like many other socio-economic researchers knew that the difference was because of the discrimination in the capital, still he wanted an answer for the lavish lifestyle of the posh.
In an attempt to sort out the reason for the striking difference, he observed the behavior of the majority and then formed the basis of “Conspicuous Consumption” which was an ideology responsible for the elevation of global capital and a strain among various social classes.
The Theory of the Leisure Class
The ideal was set forth in his composition, “The Theory of the Leisure Class” (1899). He observed that the idea of gaining and establishing capital is one’s act to display social authority. The idea about conspicuous consumption is not a new principle of economics but according to him, it was there from the very primitive times.
Evolution of the ideology
The formation of tribes and the reputation of the tribe leader were entirely dependent on the wealth, land, or cattle he held. This was one a sound way to locate his position in society. We find this in many cultures’ ancient scriptures that a leader was the “most pompous of all in terms of wealth which gave him most of the authority.”
With the evolution of history, this concept also changed but remained existent throughout in one form or the other, and then here we are in the most powerful era. In the capitalist culture, it refers to the idea of consumption or utility of products and services by people who are up to date in nature and extremely lavish. The intention behind this kind of consumption is to depict a social authority among others.
Dusenberry’s ideology of social esteem
James Dusenberry, later on, verified the idea and attached it with the intention or the act of keeping up “the nose high” in social circles. This is gaining popularity because the consumers are keen than ever to prove their worth unique than the other individual producing a sense of consumer competition.
Here both the consumers go on competing with each other in terms of the luxuries they have or the capital they use in the purchase of a specific product with which a certain kind of fine and delicate reputation is linked. It is the most silent yet the most obvious and powerful way of expressing authority.
This is becoming a way of life because a number of people know the impact authority can hold. Therefore, society is turning towards the direction where everyone aspires to get the maximum number of luxuries to sustain life happily as well as impress others which can help an individual in various steps of life.
Are brands endorsing this idea?
A certain answer to this is a “Yes”. Brands are highly responsible for creating a buzz regarding social power and commodity. A number of brands have started focusing on the strategy and even some of them have worked at this very idea a number of times. You find their marketing strategies chanting the notion of perfection or idealism.
The case example of Tiffany & Co.
If you go through the world’s most expensive diamond and platinum jewelry brand “Tiffany & Co.”, you will be shocked to find that most of their campaigns over electronic and social media have a certain register phrase like, “Make your love ones feel special” which affirms that the company knows how one piece of expensive jewelry can change the life or social status of a person.
The trick of the market
The charm of the capitalist world is that you can criticize it a lot, can go on writing pages and pages of extreme abhorrence against their very origin but still you cannot resist the temptation. The owners these days know the weakness of their clients fully, so their attempt is always to prepare something which runs in the market for a long time.
Motto of brands
Brands know that their secret of success lies in the way they spread capitalist concern among the public. This is why most of the brands these days provide you with a wide range of one product available at different prices with the slogan of “making you look unique”. This is the model of the functioning of brands these days.
The idea about brand ambassador
Another popular trend which capitalism gives us is the label of “brand ambassador”. People do idealize certain people today on the basis of their achievements in different fields and a number of people yearn to be like them if not completely then partially. This serves as a source of internal satisfaction and becomes beneficial for the corporate sector at the same time.
They pay millions of bucks to these inspirational personalities to come forward and second their thoughts about the company’s ambitions and thoughts. This serves as a magic charm for most of the fans who are already seeking out ways to be like their favorite ones. Thus, people are ready to pay any grand price just for the sake of following the star’s footsteps.
The merchandise business
In the recent few years, not only corporate sector businessmen but the stars, singers, or such personalities themselves have realized their worth as the agent of promoting consumption. Now, many of the stars have their own merchandise through which they are making millions and at the same time, branding does continue with the same zeal.
By now you must be rolling your eyes at the statement because no one can think about our favorites doing such things. However, it does happen and this is the reason they are considered the biggest cards of success in this corporate gamble. Various international brands like Gucci, Versace, Hermes, Chanel, and Prada have the biggest stars of the town as their right hands.
Brands vs. Replicas
The elites who are more likely to avail the opportunity, take full advantage of this kind of branding and we find the designer catalog adding up in their life every single day. However, the working class is less likely to get access to the original designer products and they are more likely to rely on replicas of companies with affordable price ranges.
This way both the international brands and local brands which are trying to get themselves fixed in the business world make money out of it. Every day the parent company releases a new designer product which adds up in the catalog of the replica brands the very next moment thus trying to give individuals of both classes equal chances to feel powerful at the expense of capital.
Reasons for the propagation of conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous consumption is spreading like wildfire in this decade. There are some of the markers significantly responsible for such a fast pace of development in the process itself.
- The need to feel recognized
- An expression of power
- Social attitudes
The need to feel recognized
In our circle, there are a number of people having different natures and mentalities. Some are extroverts while others are introverts. However, there are a number of people who have certain psychological stimuli prompting them to stand up and go for something which others have not yet noticed and thus become the outstanding one among the entire group.
This is more due to the psychological or emotional incidents impacting a person’s personality deeply allowing him/her to have this need to seek validation for every single effort. This is most common in teenagers as compared to members of other age groups.
It can be due to the fact that they are still learning about the world and have been exposed to bullying in the past which is why they start dressing up in a unique way or develop their interests in products that are unique and inaccessible to others members of that group.
Popular trends like the drag industry have been regarded now as a way of expressing yourself freely among your peers in the way you want to. However, this message reached a higher audience not because of the nature of the message but because of the transitions which seem to be incomplete without tons of cosmetic products.
An expression of power
Luxuries do have their significance when it comes to authority. This is why till today the style of Queen Elizabeth is copied and reproduced for many international clients all around the globe. It portrays that a person having the most expensive way of living is extraordinarily powerful because of his/her immediate access to every opportunity.
It also tells about the economic condition of a person and one can eventually guess the standards of living by the norms of a lavish life.
There is a peculiar style, an aura, or an unusual vibe about the people who enjoy the greatest luxuries of life. They have a unique style of their own which seems unbeatable for the others no matter how hard they try. They know how to make it at the top by the habit of their selective consumption employing the entire capitalist market for styling their life.
There is a competitive stimulus in each one of us hindering us at every single place whether it is the professional field or personal. Among groups and peers, a competitive sense is commonly observed where one tries to do better than the other in every possible way.
This comes from the sense of making others inferior to one’s own self.
A number of girls who are at their high schools often share this competitiveness and jealousy which does better for the fortune of big brands. In the U.S alone, there has been a remarkable increase in the sales of branded stuff or replicas by 9.7%.
Certain brands also have their hands in fuelling competitiveness by asserting the aim of showing others what you have got. Maybelline has run campaigns a number of times where different models are portrayed as the girls undergoing the provocation of competition to do better.
The most common product which has made millions in the market on the basis of the growing competition is the fairness creams or the moisturizers which are depicted as the solution of all the skin problems making you better than the mates. A number of companies have stopped advertising on this agenda after a lot of protest from women of color but still, the competition persists in the hope of becoming the fairest of all.
Have you ever heard about the term shopaholics and wondered why there is an obsession with shopping no less than an addiction? Well, mental health experts do have a cent to spend on that. They describe it as a feeling similar to addiction because you are having no control over the stimulus of getting everything every time you move outside.
They tell that an individual feels a strange sense of self-satisfaction and happiness if goes through this addiction regularly.
Brands welcome the shopaholics with a tight warm hug and a few thousand dollar bills. This is not a problem for those who have a strange addiction to collecting various products together because he/she feels good after that.
Interestingly, the shopaholics who have a total lack of control over this desire end up craving for shopping just the way a druggy or an alcoholic does for the drug or booze. Famous actor Paris Hilton who is also an entrepreneur confessed a number of times that she was a shopaholic during a particular phase in her life.
She further tells that during this period, she had collected hundreds of bottles of expensive colognes and designer heels to quench her thirst for shopping. However, when this habit became extremely problematic and insulting for her, she took sessions to let this go. Do you believe it now?
A good Mac advertisement can make you crave a Big Mac and you will find no problem in immediately ordering it right at your place. Now rewind, all of this happened because the advertisement looked irresistible. This is how global brands operate. They know the power of attractive strategies and discounts.
Once the devil of advertisements is unleashed, then I can bet you on this that no one feels complete without actually getting their hands on that very product and feeling full. More often, the stars are there to take your heart and give it to the corporate brand where you are all set to make your next purchase.
These days social media advertising is gaining acclaim because of its convenience and the presentation of a wide range of products out of which you can choose the customized man entirely curated for you which of course feels like a dream to all.
Another reason is to not give others a chance of laying fingers on you and your lifestyle. You know that in a society, you have to face a number of people. Some might not be as good as you have expected. They will raise an eye on your introverted nature or lack of shopping sense.
This is why most people are into purchasing expensive products from time to time because they simply do not want to become a source of ridicule for others.
The social attitudes regarding the nature of a particular product also determine its significance in society. If a society has a favorite, then every other individual will try to have access to that product so that no one else can accuse him/her of being an outcast.
This came true when we look into the eastern societies where smartphones made their way right when every other person started using them on regular basis. So, when those who could not afford them at that point eventually ended up getting them because of the threat in their minds as being an old-fashioned moron declining modern technology.
Conspicuous consumption though apparently seems to serve capitalist intentions rightly. However, it actually is a distortion, havoc for the individual capital. If the corporate culture keeps on growing with all its might, its arm will eventually end up holding the coffins of the employees’ strength who need to run at the pace of the ticking clock to keep up with the growing demands.
They at the same time have to remain in the social circle with limited resources. So, the need of the time is to make the public aware that luxuries do not contribute to individual skills which is the true marker of power.
The author is an M.Phil scholar conducting her thesis in Literature. As a sucker for literature, she swoons over Greek and South Asian fiction while reviewing books in her spare time. Her love for writing has made her expand her subject matter and now she pens her opinions frequently on business, finance, entrepreneurship, lifestyle, history, and literature. For a special connection with entrepreneurship, she opens up the details occasionally about it.