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Chapter 5

CHAPTER 5 Creating Consumers.doc

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Sociology 2172A/B
Gale Cassidy

- CHAPTER 5- CREATING CONSUMERS - The Economy and the Status System - as wealth increased, the limiting factor became demand, which closely became linked to desire - recessions and depressions occur because demand drops- not because of an inability to product and supply goods and services - in postmodern societies, maintaining consumer confidence and a steady demand is crucial - status preoccupations and social pressures are different from the need to feed one’s family, nonetheless experienced as very real to those who live in such a social context - Obsolescence ➔ demand for consumer commodities must be created largely through obsolescence (the making of something else obsolete) - making something obsolete is accomplished through: - Innovation ➔ creating something newer, better, i.e. computer technology - Making Products Designed to Wear Out ➔ American car companies accused of this from 1950-1980 - fatal flaw of this technique: others making quality goods that outcompete your product i.e. Japanese car companies - Turn Products to Status Symbols ➔ the more an item has status value (rather than practical value), the more subject it is to fashion - fashion automatically creates obsolescence through making some things old, new things popular - therefore, very important that businesses make people deeply concerned about their social status - Businesses: Profiting From Teenagers - teenagers play a much broader and more important economic role than usually assumed - Scope of the Teenage Market - teenagers often seek to maintain or enhance their status by the acquisition of fashionable status symbols - children and especially teenagers are important consumers for 3 reasons: - Children as a primary market spending their own money - Children as a significant influence on their parents’ spending - Children as a future market when they become adults - Teenagers are a Lucrative Current Market - levels of spending by 12-17 year olds is unprecedented - Peter Zollo, head of one marketing firm, said America’s 12-19 yr olds spent roughly $94 billion of their own money in 1998, up from $63 billion four years earlier - other estimates are as much as 35% higher than this - roughly comparable to the estimated direct initial cost of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 - youth market became apparent after WWII, but was accelerated by the strong economic expansion during the 1990’s- real family income increased 68% - moreover, 25% less children meant more spending on each kid - adolescents also began to earn more of their own additional spending money ➔ in 1999, 41% (or 3.6 million) students were employed, and most of their income as well as allowances from their parents go towards consumer commodities and services - Teenagers also Influence Adult Spending - Ford has ads in Teen Magazine, BMW markets to adolescents, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts assembled a group of 12-17 yr olds to advise them about desired services - while car, hotel, and airline companies do not see young people as the primary customer, they recognize children have a major influence on which products their parents choose - Perhaps most important ➔ Teenagers seen as a Crucial Future Market - adolescence is the stage of life when people develop the sense of identity they will draw on as adults - this includes tastes and preferences likely to last a lifetime - music is an obvious example ➔ adults show nostalgia and loyalty about the music of their adolescence - marketers are aware of the long-term impact of habits and taste developed in adolescence - Taking Aim at Teenagers - because of the 3 markets outlined above, teenagers targets of massive marketing and advertising campaigns - American children graduate high school spending 13 000 hours in class, compared to 18 000-22 000 hours in front of the TV- the only thing they do more than watching TV and videos is sleeping - advertisers pay a premium to reach young viewers, even if it’s just a small amount of time to a small portion of the population, advertisers know young people more likely to consume their product - companies also attempt to associate their products with cultural images that appeal to children- such as Disney characters, superheroes, celebrities, music stars, etc - very few ad-free zones exist for teens ➔ marketing is everywhere, internet, TV, movies - commercialization of schools ➔ Channel One- TV program in schools, features 10 minutes of youth-oriented news and 2 minutes of advertising daily - 12 000 schools nationwide opted to receive Channel One in 1993, serving over 8 million teenagers, 40% of which 12-17 yr olds - advertisers pay $200 000 for a 30 second spot on Channel One - advertising products in an education context may further heighten their credibility and impact - in contrast, some postmodern theorists see advertising not as manipulation or even a necessary nuisance, but as a central and legitimate part of contemporary popular culture - consumption not see as frivolous but something associated with “emancipatory potential” - key aspect of personal and social identity formation - in postmodern world, core of one’s identity is ties less to the job one does than to leisure activities - in addition to advertising, specialized products, services, and stores are being created to appeal to children and adolescents - Malcolm Gladwell ➔ “the coolhunt” refers to the uncertainty that research marketers face in trying to determine what will be considered “cool” for kids - adults tend to blame the “usual suspects” ➔ businesses and marketers & advertisers for their teen’s consumerism - but to understand both the reasons for teenage consumerism and more generally the patterns of behaviour characteristic of teens, we need to look beyond the “usual suspects” and consider the role of some “un-indicted co-conspirators” ➔ teachers, public officials, and parents - Teachers, Officials, and Parents: Profiting in Other Ways - Constant Complaints and Lame Laments - intergenerations conflict is not new, but it does seem more public and political than in previous periods of American history - despite half a century of adult complaints, few changes have occurred in the way adults organize the lives of adolescence - as school attendance and years of schooling increased, more and more young people have been kept in a state of postponed maturity for longer and longer - clearly this is likely to increase the importance of peers and decrease the significance of adults- resulting in behaviours that adults have long grumbled about - when those with real power complain about the behaviours of
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