April 13, 2010

Lady HAHA's New P-P-Purchase Face.


By Wendy McHale, Publisher

Before the crash, research trends indicated how people aspired to find validation in themselves and among their peers through the badge of brands now available to everyone.

Has that changed? On the surface, sure. But not really. It's just that the items which consumers are shopping for has changed dramatically. It's no longer a Louis Vuitton Bag. It's a roof over your head, a hot meal and most of all, a mobile device.


Yet there has been a change, especially among Millennials. As evidenced by Microsoft's advertising tag-line, "Less is more." And "It's Everybody's Business" indicates the death of the individual. We're all in it together, or at least that's the message that ad agency research companies are counseling their clients to push. If Apple's 1984 commercial were produced today, the sledge-hammered equipped female athlete would have never gotten past security.

When I walk down the street these days, I go between feeling afraid and/or worried about hypnotically entering a store to buy something unless the store window promises to help "you be more of you at a 50% discount."

The irony is that with so little time on our hands; be it five minutes to have quality time with our families or 5 hours to take a stay-cation, or a TV program on Hulu with no commercial pod-breaks, the silent-scream lure of "buy me, buy me" is gone.


For all our addiction to the "the retail establishment," many young adults now feel indifferent to "Jaba the Hut" retail merchandising monsters. The game has changed. The hottest media property on the net today, twitter, should really be renamed, "Jitter," based on its ability to make or break brands, celebrities and political regimes.

Whether one was sucked into buying something and/or resisting the purchase, the backlash of branding cuts both ways. We no longer fall into abyss of purchase funnel entrapment and despair. If you buy, you get post-buy remorse and guilt. If you don't buy, you feel better.

On Mad Ave, the question has become, "How can brands ever find their way back to the hypnotic power of "New & Improved" and/or how banks and retailers co-enabled each other in the deceit of consumer credit card creativity?" There is still a way, but they have to barter it or do it at 40% of the fee.


I observe my surroundings--my once impeccably accessorized friends--overindulged and packaged explicitly in recognizable logos and overpriced brands now brag about that they got it on sale at Wal-Mart. The essential truth in today's branding culture is that it's no longer about "me." It's about "we."

"I won't tell you that I'll buy you
Kiss or hug you
Cause I'm not bluffin' with my toughin
I'm not lying with my buying
P-p-p-poker face, p-p-purchase face

Fewer and fewer brands are invading my life now. My attempt to self-realization is being defined by the needs of the people around me. A good friend of mine; once one of the most conspicuous of brand name wearers at the gym, has recently developed admiration for "minimalism" and the desire to simplify her life.

While ostentatious acts once made us feel large and superior, the feeling of self-satisfaction is becoming easier to find without looking at yourself in the mirror. In our society, there is no question that it will not stay this way forever. There will always be a new and better one of the same product, leaving us always wanting more.

But it will be difficult to afford that lifestyle now and in the future. Is this why badge brands are losing their essence? Yes. They no longer generate the desire among consumers based on the envy and jealousy they used to create among those who aspired to buy them. Regardless of how snobby a person was, there is a now point when others' dis-affectation invades their psyche much more than ever before. Glitz and showy are no longer cool, but rather a reinforcement of the wearer's poor self-esteem.


Maybe that's not marketing. Maybe it's just how human nature operates in an era of scarcity. However we on Madison Avenue have to feed our families in a period when we have lost our grip on getting people to buy. And those brands that continue to resist this paradigm change are or will soon be paying a deep cost by continuing to go down the maize of yesteryear.

What used to trap us as permanent "consumers" is no longer helping us be who we now want to be. We've escaped the strip-mall world and by doing so; have gained a profound understanding of what's important and what's not. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts and when it changes what the long tail effect of today's shift in consumerism will be.

In the meantime, I and many of my friends and family are walking a new walk and talking a new talk on a new road to self-discovery. As we learn more and more about ourselves, the feeling of self-satisfaction will hopefully find us without standing at the checkout line.

My own personal testimony is that one day I looked into my Louis Vuitton handbag and there I was, staring back at me. I realized then that I needed to get out of that bag and so I did. But an even bigger lesson and achievement was when I got the LV bag out of me.


Can't read my, can't read my
No you can't read my purchase face
(I don't have to buy nobody)

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