Does Your Stuff Define Who You Are?



In an age saturated with advertising everywhere you turn, you’d like to think that you’re one of the ’smart ones.’ You’re an individual that is impenetrable to the multimillion dollar marketing blitzes being doled out in an increasingly rapid succession.Though 77% of Americans claim to be very perceptive to marketing pitches, many still end up being defined by their ’stuff,’ whether they realize it or not.

A Case of Self Rationalization

When making purchases, we sometimes rationalize our decisions by claiming that our choices are based on quality, price, comfort and convenience. We convince ourselves (and those around us) that these decisions have nothing to do with marketing. Apple products are preferred because of their superior quality (the sleek stylings are secondary). Coke is deemed to have the best taste (the billion dollar marketing budget doesn’t have any relevance). Manolos are the most comfortable, best made stilettos (it doesn’t make any difference that Sex And The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker wears them as she struts through the streets of Manhattan).

Marketers Are Getting Smarter

The modern consumer is typecast by marketers as having become completely resistant to all advertising, but the truth is much deeper. Instead, they have fully embraced specific brands on their own, many of which lack mainstream ad campaigns. Marketers are quickly adapting to this new phenomenon and becoming more stealth in their techniques. Often, these tactics are so seamless that they have become imperceptible to the consumer. While they may feel that the lack of a defined campaign relates an aura of street cred and bypasses the obnoxious connotations closely related to corporate powerhouses of the past, this is exactly what marketers are striving for.

Products are now regularly launched without an explanation as to what they are, what they do, or who should use them. The benefit of this approach is that consumers are invited to define it for themselves in a way that’s perceived as being a unique, individually focused experience. They have every reason to believe the product is a reflection of their values and needs because they’ve never been told any differently.

A Personal Analysis

I strongly value my individuality and integrity. Mixing high and low fashion and design, I’d like to think that I have a distinct look that ties together my art, design and overall lifestyle. Yet, perhaps I am still seen by marketers as a stereotypical 20-something college educated creative female.

It’s true that I am partial to Apple computers and own a personalized iPod. Part of the reason is the performance (I’m a graphic designer), but my purchase was also helped along by looks. I drive a VW Jetta because I claim it’s practical, but underneath it all, I am very partial to European cars. My favorite brand of makeup is MAC. Though it lasts for ages and works well with my skin, the cool black packaging and minimal logo doesn’t hurt. I justify the cost of my Miu Miu handbag by convincing myself that it will last me for years and that I’m not having to replace a cheaper counterpart every six months when it falls apart. But, the recent lolita-esqe ad campaign featuring Kirsten Dunst was very aesthetically appealing to me with the red lips and babydoll dresses.

Am I buying into an image with the purchases I make? I have a degree in marketing and I work at a creative agency. I am a graphic designer with a love of branding. I should see through all of this obvious fluff, but I like what I like whether I’m ‘supposed to’ or not. Should I refuse to buy something because I think that marketers are getting the upper hand? We all have preconceived preferences, even if they lean towards D.I.Y. anti-brands. The products that I buy don’t make me unique and they don’t define me as a person, but they are nice to own.

Stuff Is Just Stuff

It’s natural to use possessions to aid in self-expression but there’s a fine line between doing this and in leveraging items to make ourselves into someone else. No matter what your views are, it’s important to remember that stuff is nothing more than…stuff.

What’s your take on the stuff you own?

Do your possessions define you in some way? Are there certain things that you don’t think you could live without? Certain brands that appeal to you?

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