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Consumption Culture – 4 Enablers That Make It Tempting And Popular

Can you believe that our consumption culture only really took off in the twentieth century? Nowadays, we’re all about the latest gadgets and brands, defining ourselves through what we buy and use. So in this article, let’s explore the four major enablers that fueled this wild growth of consumerism: 1) capitalism’s drive, 2) advanced supply chain and technology infrastructure, 3) clever mass marketing tactics, and 4) our never-ending quest for social status.

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”

Jeff Bezos

1. Consumption Culture Enabled By Capitalism.

First, capitalism was and is the primary enabler of consumption culture. All cultures have consumers, but a capitalist society at its essence is focused on selling to consumers. This is because private industry and businesses are singularly focused on the wants of consumers. Furthermore, consumers are the source of a company’s profits.  Lastly, due to the unparalleled success of America’s capitalist system, America was a main driver of the birth of Consumption Culture and its subsequent spread around the world.

Capitalist systems have continued to enable and balloon the consumption culture over the years. Specifically, it started with small retail shop commerce. Then mail-order catalogs in the 1890s. From there to department stores and malls of the 20th century with millions of acres of selling space. Lastly, it has fully blossomed through e-commerce into a global phenomena. See MIT Press for more on the History of Consumer Culture. Also, see my article on capitalism, Capitalism Pros And Cons – More Freedom, Less Security, Not Fair?.

2. Consumer Culture Infrastructure Enabled By Innovation and Technology.

Consumption Culture - A Shopping Frenzy
A Shopping Frenzy

Next, hand-in-hand with the incentives of capitalism, innovation and technology has created an unparalleled consumption culture infrastructure. Namely, this infrastructure consists of business financing, robotic assembly-line factories, massive just-in-time transportation and supply chains, and broadband communications.

Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption.… We need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

Retail analyst Victor Lebow remarked in 1955

3. Consumption Culture Enabled by Mass Marketing.

The third enabler of consumption culture is mass marketing. This is because for businesses to sell to consumers they need marketing. Because of the rise of capitalism and mass production, businesses started using mass marketing. Consequently, mass marketing further enables consumption culture today.

Mass production is profitable only if its rhythm can be maintained.” He argued that business “cannot afford to wait until the public asks for its product; it must maintain constant touch, through advertising and propaganda… to assure itself the continuous demand which alone will make its costly plant profitable”.

Edward Bernays, a pioneer of the public relations industry, observed In 1928

Thanks to technology, mass marketing continues to expand first starting with print, then radio, then television, and now with the internet. See BBC’s How the World Embraced Consumerism for more on consumption culture and mass marketing. 

Power of Advertising – 9 Ways They Entice You To Buy. You would be surprised that advertising really just took off in the last 100 years. Now businesses are spending hundreds of billions a year to influence us to buy or act. Click here to find out the origins of advertising and what are the 9 ways that advertisers persuade you with a “call for action”. Also, you will find out about the controversies surrounding the power of advertising.

4. Consumption Culture Enabled by Our Need for Social Status.

Lastly, in a consumption culture, we think of product brands as a social status symbol. This is because it is our human nature to desire to be included in a group and have standing in that group. This is how we achieve social status. Capitalism, our advanced technology, and mass marketing has amplified our need for social status. Thus, we elevate the Brand as all important and we expand consumption culture further. Indeed, for a lot of us our favorite brands define who we are. You could say we have become slaves to “The Brand”.

… Mini Cooper drivers take weekend caravan drives; to own a Mini is to be automatically part of the club. Nike has a loyal following of sports enthusiasts and sneaker lovers.”

Chron provides some good examples of brands and social status

The list of brands continues to go on and on. Indeed, our love of brands give us the perception, real or not, that our social status increases. Also, “The Brand” gives us a good feeling. As a result, it encourages us to buy and consume more, thus further enabling our Consumption Culture.

Examples Of The American Dream – Something Uplifting, Materialistic, Unreachable? decades ago most of us had a positive viewpoint of The American Dream. Today there are several differing viewpoints of The American Dream to include it being: our national ethos, all about materialism, our constitutional right, or an unreachable goal. Click here to explore examples of the American Dream and our many viewpoints.

For more information from Supply Chain Tech Insights, see articles on Supply Chain.

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