Consumer kids; sponges and spikes
The past 30 years or so have seen an explosion of consumerism in the West with all that entails, good and bad. As it spills into new markets, the world has changed because of it, physically, politically and sociologically.
Whilst economic activity has lifted millions out of poverty, there have been great costs. I personally think it’s valid to characterise the era in some respects as one of profits vs people. There have been victories on both sides but overall, profits have won. Look at wealth distribution as evidence of this – in the West, it’s never been greater (see video at end of this post).
A symptomatic front line in the profits vs people battle is online user-generated review sites, once touted to be the consumer’s best friend, now shown to have been infiltrated by corporate interests. The potential for the internet to truly democratise consumption by ensuring price transparency and giving consumers free voice has not – unsurprisingly – been embraced by business.
When I look at brands gathering hundreds of thousands of Facebook Friends, I wonder about gen XY and Z’s mindlessly enthusiastic, utterly uncritical and apparently bottomless appetite for sponging up marketing. Tons of research shows how ‘marketing savvy’ kids are, but the amazing thing is that doesn’t stop them for one second. The idealism of Rock n Roll has been replaced by the rampant greed of hip-hop. “Get Rich or Die Tryin” sang rapper 50 Cent. And he nearly did – die tryin’ that is (he was shot nine times in 2000).
But not everybody is so complicit. Whatever you might say about its focus and effectiveness, the Occupy movement gave temporary voice to deep unrest. And if you look around, you will see lots of kids thinking a little more deeply about marketing, spiking and popping dishonesty and manipulation when they detect it. And sharing. Here’s an example I’d like to celebrate.
My personal conviction is that marketers carry enormous responsibilities, maybe more than politicians. People need to keep both kinds of bastards honest for similar reasons. Both have voting constituents (in the case of businesses it’s consumers exercising buying decisions) who need to be wary of being spoonfed the corporate line, and there needs to be as much informed debate around business as politics. Unfortunately that is simply not the case, so it’s good to see kids like this getting wise to the ways of the world.
Perhaps the new cry should be “Unhitch … or Die Buyin'”.
- Ex-Vogue editor: agencies are wringing the sponge dry (mumbrella.com.au)