There is a new trend that is blowing across the world of brands.
Brands are the great story tellers of modern times. Brands reach out to a wide set of audience. And by reaching a wider set of audience they impress upon the listeners to behave in a certain way. The audience displays the fact they have bought into the stories told by the brand by showing it to the world. This creates a large society of conformists. As this kind of behaviour is the mass produced behaviour, a set of consumers seek differentiation from their peers. When a brand tells a story of exclusivity it promotes the feeling of status.
Symbols that are well known and allow the consumers’ to make a statement of style or class or taste will always dominate the popular culture.
This very culture of wanting to assert status is also driving the counterculture of desire for pleasure and experience that are personal and private in nature. This means that every brand needs to announce the status factor to masses, but help the consumer enjoy the status impact from their purchase in a much more inconspicuous way.
The issue with status symbols is the fact that they don’t really differentiate one consumer from another; it actually creates a ‘class’ of same kind of consumers. Is this why consumers tend to personalize their status announcing products as quikly as they leave the shelves? Possibly this is why iPhones get funky covers and cars get different accessories? Possibly they add that extra bit to bragging rights.
This search for uniqueness is driving the sales of some very interesting brands. The VW Beetle or the retro Fiat 500 is not bought for the reasons of status or prestige. They are bought for the reasons of uniqueness. Chances are everyone knows about the driver of Beetle or 500. The brand here is not adding to the status of the owner, the brand is adding to the uniqueness of the owner. It’s arming the consumers with some very potent ingredients to tell a story.
The desire for exclusivity and uniqueness is fuelling the desire for new experiences. The desire for experiences is making pleasure a bigger driver than possessions as the generator of status symbols. This is driving consumption of brands that is not conspicuous.
Take a look at homes becoming heavens. Increasingly home owners are investing in expensive home theatre systems, or Jacuzzis that are not the centre piece of display. They are in private spaces and to be enjoyed by the owners. They are not the most visible status symbols, till the owner decides to speak about it. This whole trend is not driven by conformity, it’s driven by individuality.
If the new status symbols can be driven not by consuming and displaying an alternative way of lifestyle than it can be used to trigger a social change by which the society can start to step of the consumption conundrum.
Can this trend drive the desire to be ecologically more responsible? Be aware of citizen rights and insist on voting in elections? Will sparing some precious personal time and devoting it to philanthropy be a change driver?
Can the non conspicuous consumption be the new conversation starter?