Culture, Gender, Identity, and Consumerism
Identity Marketing and ‘The Merchants of Cool’
Identity marketing is a form of marketing in which a brand creates an image in the market according to the way it intends to be perceived by the targeted consumers (Lusch 27). This image created usually identifies with the target market; hence, the identity created synchronizes with the needs and desires of the market. In this way, they are able to keep their customer’s dependent on their products creating some sort of need. This is a tactic used to create an emotional bond of the consumer to the products, as by bringing about a mutual interrelation, the brand is able to influence the lives of the consumers to be aligned to what the brand provides.
In the book No Logo, Naomi Klein has written an article on how corporate businesses use identity marketing to influence consumer’s lives with the aim of maintaining and increasing the consumer base (20). In identity branding, the idea of representation is key as expressed both in The Merchant of Cool (FRONTLINE 2001) and in Patriarchy gets Funky (Klein 20). The brand seeks to represent the target market. In this way, the market consumes the product as they feel that it represents who they are. In my opinion, identity marketing is problematic, as the continued reliance of the consumer on the image brought about by the product makes them lose their individual identity. The consumer believes in the depiction portrayed by the brand as being the correct one as opposed to whom they are individually. Consumers, therefore, begin to change their lives, conforming to the idea portrayed in order to fit in with the society based on what is portrayed by the brand.
According to Klein (20), the origin of the influence that the media has over individuals stemmed from the 1980’s where there was so much negative representation of marginalized and minority groups by the media. In order to transform the outlook on marginalized groups, they decided to use the same media to voice out their opinions, allowing the media to represent them according to how they wanted the world to view them. This made way for introduction of previously unacceptable acts such as homosexual commercials, sexually suggestive shows and violent and aggressive entertainment shows. Brands realized that in order to expand their market they had to approach the market from a consumer’s viewpoint, which changed the marketing scene (Klein 20). This is what brought about the rise of the likes of MTV in the 1990’s, where the corporate world took the opportunity to earn profits from representing the people’s interests. This confirms that identity marketing is not in the interest of consumer growth but that of profit maximization. However, people fail to see this as they are engrossed in the fact that what is fed to them seems real and relevant to their lives disregarding the fact that it also encourages pluralism.
FRONTLINE in The Merchants of Cool (2001) identifies that in order to provide products or cultures that would appeal to the consumer, sellers have had to go into the lives of the target market to identify how they live. This is similar to what is discussed in Patriarchy gets Funky (Klein 20). This has resulted in elimination of boundaries, which has introduced lifestyles and cultures that have been harmful. For instance, with the growth of television there has been introduction of reality television shows that are meant to show a ‘real life’ daily experience of someone that people admire. My view on this is that it has led to pretense and introduction of different unreal lifestyles as people try to mimic that kind of life in order to appear up-to-date among their peers.
Since most of identity marketing targets the young people, I feel that it exposes them to a lot of outside influence in a period in their lives where they need guidance. Most of identity marketing targets teenagers as marketers understand that they are easily influenced, since at this period teenagers want to be accepted into certain circles, which demand certain lifestyles. The seller researches on the lives and needs of their target market then creates brands that depict what the consumer wants making them accept the brand (FRONTLINE 2001). For example, by providing a ‘guideline’ through television shows on what is expected of one by society, the teenagers tend to follow the shows religiously, adapting what they see into their lives.
With the high percentage of youth in the country and with their nature being one that is easy to manipulate, they are a desirable target market for most businesses. However, businesses understand that personal value is important to the teens, hence the various campaigns for identity creation (Magrini 2013). With the growth in technology and social media, identity marketing has grown as social media makes it easier to connect with the teenagers on a personal level, making it more appealing. The corporate takes effort to identify and understand their target market’s lifestyle and wants (FRONTLINE 2001), ensuring that they offer goods that satisfy the customer’s needs while playing with their fantasies.
I find identity marketing to be misleading and manipulative to the consumer, although it is highly rewarding to the seller. If identity marketing was used to popularize good qualities, it would be highly beneficial to the world’s culture. However, over the years, identity marketing has led to the degeneration of human culture while influencing the market into following a certain trend. Identity marketing has been responsible for the direction that the human lifestyle has followed over the years and if not checked, it can result in a future generation that is lost, as it does not have individual identity. It can also lead to disappearance of boundaries and no privacy.
Klein, Naomi, “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies”, Picador, 2000. Print.
Lusch, Robert F., “Marketing’s Evolving Identity: Defining Our Future”, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Vol. 26, No. 2, Fall 2007. Print.
Magrini, Andrew, “Marketing to Teenagers Today: Developing a New Understanding of Value”, 2013. Web. June 19, 2013.
PBS, “FRONTLINE: The Merchants of Cool”, season 19, episode 5, 2001. Web. June 19, 2013.