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CONSUMERISM IS A SHAME TO

MARKETING

TOBE NNADOZIE

AUGUST 2009

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TABLE OF CONTENT

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1. Table of Contents 2
2. Introduction 3
3. Main Body
- Definition of Consumerism 4
- Definition of Marketing 5
- Interconnect between Marketing and 5
Consumerism
- The History of Consumerism 7
- Counter arguments on Consumerism 8
- Modern Consumerism in the 21st Century 10
- Consumerism: A Shame or Shade of Marketing 11
4. Conclusion 13
5. References 14

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INTRODUCTION

Consumerism is one of the new generation buzz words in marketing and sales
which has become more popular at the turn of the century. Sales and the
associated targets have become a pain rather than a joy to many people today.
To ensure that organizations meet up with the increasing demand to present
profitable dividends to shareholders or direct profits to stakeholders, many
marketing adverts today highlight the need for consumers to buy for fashion
rather than for need.

In Nigeria, it is not abnormal to see compounds with several state of the art
cars which do not serve any profitable purpose to the owners. Many people
believe in buying or owning those cars to create happiness within. People today
are also never satisfied with their complexion, they must purchase this cream
or that to enhance their complexion and it is not a matter of how good they
look but how many creams they possess. This crave for materialism has
permeated the society.

The question is who do you blame for this rot in needs satisfaction? Do you
blame the consumer? Do you place the blame at the foot of the sales people or
do you blame the marketers? This paper looks at how marketing has created
the new craze called consumerism and how it is a shame to today’s advertising
and marketing world that needs are not satisfied to create happiness, but
rather the quantity of what you possess determines happiness.

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DEFINITIONS

DEFINITION OF CONSUMERISM

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the


purchase of material possessions. Consumerism is economically manifested in
the chronic purchasing of new goods and services, with little attention to their
true need, durability, product origin or the environmental consequences of
manufacture and disposal. Consumerism is driven by huge sums spent on
advertising designed to create both a desire to follow trends, and the resultant
personal self-reward system based on acquisition. Materialism is one of the end
results of consumerism.

Consumerism interferes with the workings of society by replacing the normal


common-sense desire for an adequate supply of life's necessities, community
life, a stable family and healthy relationships with an artificial ongoing and
insatiable quest for things and the money to buy them with little regard for the
true utility of what is bought. An intended consequence of this, promoted by
those who profit from consumerism, is to accelerate the discarding of the old,
either because of lack of durability or a change in fashion. Consumerism sets
each person against themselves in an endless quest for the attainment of
material things or the imaginary world conjured up and made possible by
things yet to be purchased. Weight training, diet centers, breast reduction,
breast enhancement, cosmetic surgery, permanent eye make-up, liposuction,
collagen injections are some examples of people turning themselves into
human consumer goods more suited for the "marketplace" than living in a
healthy balanced society.

In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies placing emphasis on


consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the belief that the free choice of

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consumers should dictate the economic structure of a society (cf. Producerism,
especially in the British sense of the term). It makes people not rely on common
sense to select quality but rather they stick to quantity of frequency of
purchase.

The web-based free dictionary defines consumerism in the following way:


1. A modern movement for the protection of the consumer against useless,
inferior, or dangerous products, misleading advertising, unfair pricing, etc.
2. The concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous
to the economy.
3. The fact or practice of an increasing consumption of goods: a critic of
American consumerism.

Webster's dictionary defines Consumerism as "the promotion of the consumer's


interests" or alternately "the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is
economically desirable". It is thus the opposite of anti-consumerism or of
producerism.

Anti-consumerism is the socio-political movement against consumerism. In this


meaning, consumerism is the equating of personal happiness with the
purchasing material possessions and consumption.

In relation to producerism, it is the belief that the free choice of consumers should
dictate the economic structure of a society, rather than the interests of producers.
It can also refer to economic policies that place an emphasis on consumption.

From all foregoing above, consumerism is directly linked to marketing or


advertisements. They are sometimes termed misleading because they mis-
direct consumer’s attitude and behavior.

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DEFINITION OF MARKETING
Marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association as the activity, set
of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and
exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and
society at large. The term developed from the original meaning which referred
literally to going to market, as in shopping, or going to a market to buy or sell
goods or services.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as "The management


process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer
requirements profitably.

Marketing practice tended to be seen as a creative industry in the past, which


included advertising, distribution and selling. However, because marketing
makes extensive use of social sciences, psychology, sociology, mathematics,
economics, anthropology and neuroscience, the profession is now widely
recognized as a science. The overall process starts with marketing research and
goes through market segmentation, business planning and execution, ending
with pre and post-sales promotional activities. It is also related to many of the
creative arts.

INTERCONNECT BETWEEN MARKETING AND CONSUMERISM

Marketing is closely knit with consumerism. Marketing gives rise to advertising


which creates better sales for marketers. Advertising is the promotion of a
product or service. It is the use of announcements to create awareness about a
product. Marketing creates the increase of decrease of the purchasing power of
consumers. Where marketing creates a seeming gap in the lives of people due
to lack of ownership of a particular product, consumers (if the advertised

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product) has sufficient weight will gradually increase the rate at which they
purchase the product.

Consumerism cannot thrive where there is no fuzzy adverts. This is because


consumers become aware of the social needs of a product through the large
scale stick-in-the-face adverts that displays how others have utilized these
products. Marketing makes people want to belong by owning products. The
danger of junk marketing is therefore that people will ultimately purchase
goods they do not need to be able to belong to an elite or sectarian group of
users of a product.

THE HISTORY OF CONSUMERISM


Consumerism has strong links with the Western world, but is in fact an
international phenomenon. People purchasing goods and consuming materials
in excess of their basic needs (which is called subjective purchase) is as old as
the first civilizations A great turn in consumerism arrived just before the
Industrial Revolution. While before the norm had been the scarcity of
resources, The Industrial Revolution created an unusual situation: for the first
time in history, products were available in outstanding quantities, at
outstandingly low prices, being thus available to virtually everyone. And so
began the era of mass consumption, the only era where the concept of
consumerism is applicable.

It's still good to keep in mind that since consumerism began, various
individuals and groups have consciously sought an alternative lifestyle, such
as the "simple living", "eco-conscious", and "localvore"/"buy local" movements.
Consumerism, the promotion of consumer rights and protection. Subject to the
doctrine of caveat emptor (Latin, "let the buyer beware"). The older term and
concept of "conspicuous consumption" originated at the turn of the 20th

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century in the writings of sociologist and economist, Thorstein Veblen. The
term describes an apparently irrational and confounding form of economic
behaviour. Veblen's scathing proposal that this unnecessary consumption is a
form of status display is made in darkly humorous observations like the
following:
"It is true of dress in even a higher degree than of most other items of
consumption, that people will undergo a very considerable degree of privation in
the comforts or the necessaries of life in order to afford what is considered a
decent amount of wasteful consumption; so that it is by no means an uncommon
occurrence, in an inclement climate, for people to go ill clad in order to appear
well dressed." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899).
The term "conspicuous consumption" spread to describe consumerism in the
United States in the 1960s, but was soon linked to debates about media
theory, culture jamming, and its corollary productivism. By 1920 most people
[Americans] had experimented with occasional installment buying. While
consumerism is not a new phenomenon, it has become widespread over the
course of the 20th century, and particularly in recent decades.

COUNTER ARGUMENTS ON CONSUMERISM


In many critical context, consumerism is used to describe the tendency of
people to identify strongly with products or services they consume, especially
those with commercial brand names and perceived status-symbolism appeal,
e.g. a luxury automobile, designer clothing, or expensive jewelry. A culture that
is permeated by consumerism can be referred to as a consumer culture or a
market culture.

Opponents of consumerism argue that many luxuries and unnecessary


consumer products may act as social mechanism allowing people to identify
like-minded individuals through the display of similar products, again utilizing
aspects of status-symbolism to judge socioeconomic status and social
stratification. Some people believe relationships with a product or brand name
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are substitutes for healthy human relationships lacking in societies, and along
with consumerism, create a cultural hegemony, and are part of a general
process of social control in modern society.

Critics of consumerism often point out that consumerist societies are more
prone to damage the environment, contribute to global warming and use up
resources at a higher rate than other societies. In 1955, economist Victor
Lebow stated (as quoted by Rees, 2009):
"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 and our
ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned
up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate".

Critics of consumerism include Pope Benedict XVI, German historian Oswald


Spengler (who said, "Life in America is exclusively economic in structure and
lacks depth"), and French writer Georges Duhamel, who held "American
materialism up as a beacon of mediocrity that threatened to eclipse French
civilization".

In an opinion segment of New Scientist magazine published in August 2009,


reporter Andy Coghlan cited William Rees of the University of British Columbia
and epidemiologist Warren Hern of the University of Colorado at Boulder,
saying that human beings, despite considering themselves civilized thinkers,
are "subconsciously still driven by an impulse for survival, domination and
expansion... an impulse which now finds expression in the idea that inexorable
economic growth is the answer to everything, and, given time, will redress all
the world's existing inequalities."[9] According to figures presented by Rees at
the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, human society is in a
"global overshoot", consuming 30% more material than is sustainable from the
world's resources. Rees went on to state that at present, 85 countries are
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exceeding their domestic "bio-capacities", and compensate for their lack of local
material by depleting the stocks of other countries, which have a material
surplus due to their lower consumption.
Locally in Nigeria, we do not have defined social thinkers that criticize modern
social philosophies and publish their works, so it is difficult to outline critics of
social malfunctioning principles. Churches, family and the so-called common
man courts remain the major critics of consumerism in Nigeria. However, the
irony of the Nigeria critic environment is that several times, exponents and
social crusaders hardly live by their messages. Many people who stand against
consumerism (without even knowing what they stand against), do get involved
in hard line materialism.

There has always been strong criticism of the anti-consumerist movement.


Most of this comes from libertarian thought. Libertarian criticisms of the anti-
consumerist movement are largely based on the perception that it leads to
elitism. Namely, libertarians believe that no person should have the right to
decide for others what goods are necessary for living and which aren't, or that
luxuries are necessarily wasteful, and thus argue that anti-consumerism is a
precursor to central planning or a totalitarian society. Twitchell, in his book
Living It Up, sarcastically remarked that the logical outcome of the anti-
consumerism movement would be a return to the sumptuary laws that existed
in ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages, historical periods prior to the era
of Karl Marx in the 19th century.

MODERN CONSUMERISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY


Beginning in the 1990s, the most frequent reason given for attending college
had changed to making a lot of money, outranking reasons such as becoming
an authority in a field or helping others in difficulty. This statement directly
correlates with the rise of materialism, specifically the technological aspect. At
this time compact disc players, digital media, personal computers, and cellular
telephones all began to integrate into the affluent Nigerian’s everyday lifestyle.
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There was a shift away from values of community, spirituality, and integrity,
and toward competition, materialism and disconnection.

Businesses have realized that wealthy consumers are the most attractive
targets for marketing their products. The upper class' tastes, lifestyles, and
preferences trickle down to become the standard which all consumers seek to
emulate. The not so wealthy consumers can “purchase something new that will
speak of their place in the tradition of affluence”. A consumer can have the
instant gratification of purchasing an expensive item that will help improve
their social status.

Emulation is also a core component of 21st century consumerism. As a general


trend, regular consumers seek to emulate those who are above them in the
social hierarchy. The poor strive to imitate the wealthy and the wealthy imitate
celebrities and other icons. The celebrity endorsement of products can be seen
as evidence of the desire of modern consumers to purchase products partly or
solely to emulate people of higher social status. This purchasing behavior may
co-exist in the mind of a consumer with an image of oneself as being an
individualist.

CONSUMERISM: A SHAME OF MARKETING

Looking through the concept and social behavior attached to consumerism, the
question we need to ask ourselves is what impact does marketing make on
consumerism? Is there a positive or negative impact of consumerism on society
and the environment at last?

Economic Impact: The more consumerism spreads, the weaker is the


incentive to manufacture long-lasting, quality products, and the greater the
likelihood that cheaply made products will instead be imported from the

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lowest-wage, environmentally unregulated overseas manufacturer that mobile
capital, ever seeking the highest return, can find

Environmental Impact: Consumerism causes the wasteful use of energy and


material far above and beyond that needed for everyday living at a comfortable
level. Money is not the only way to measure the cost of an item. When one adds
up all the raw materials and energy that go into the goods and services
consumed over an individual's lifetime, the toll on the environment is
staggering. When this cost is multiplied out over the lifespan of families, cities
and countries, the proportions are incredible.

Social Impact: Consumerism results into the wrong status grading of


individuals. People are wrongly socially classified as being compliant even
though they create more losses to the environment and the economy.

Consumerism is therefore a shame of marketing as it results into individuals


being marketed for the wrong reasons. It creates a need where there is none. It
elevates those who should be condemned and creates lots of sunk finances in
the country thereby destroying efforts made by political and economic leaders
to improve the economy.

Marketers should be reprimanded when they falsely ascribe unwholesome


qualities or features to a product when the product does not have such.

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CONCLUSION

As we conclude, we wish to bring to life consumerism in our local environment.


Why would make a man with a good and perfectly-conditioned car, desire and
decide to purchase another one with similar features only because is it a 2
years later model? What would make a student junk his school bag every
semester to purchase another one? What would create the cravings in the heart
of an individual to just amass properties that he may never use, just for the joy
of seeing them?

These materialistic cravings were limited to the arts in the past but have
become the pastime of many today. The urge comes as a result of marketing.
This form of marketing that has resulted into people not buying things as
needed but to satisfy an urge is a bane of modern day adverts and should be
corrected.

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REFERENCES
Online Free Dictionary on the Web
Webster Dictionary on the Web
Consumerism". Britannica Concise Encyclopedia Online. 2008.
Michael Shuman, "The Small-mart Revolution" (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler
Publishers, 2007)
Calder, Lendol Glen (1999). Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History
of Consumer Credit. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 222. ISBN
069105827X.
Global Climate Change and Energy CO2 Production—An International
Perspective
Stearns, Peter. Consumerism in World History. Routledge
Levine, Madeline. “Challenging the Culture of Affluence.” Independent School.
67.1 (2007): 28-36.
Miller, Eric. Attracting the Affluent. Naperville, Illinois: Financial Sourcebooks,
1991.

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