Today’s world driven by a capitalist economy is a consumption-driven world. It is a world where consumption drives the industry and economy, with the need of consumption often artificially created through the clever use of marketing and advertisement strategies. Advertising today is a multi-billion dollar industry, and the primary industry to drive product consumption forward. A capitalist economy survives on consumption rather than austerity and places profit as a function and sole purpose of a business, in simple terms. It cannot be said that my consumption habits and choices weren’t influenced by the massive amount of advertising I am exposed to on a daily basis, through the Television and print media, internet and Youtube, and various smartphone app-based advertising. The paper seeks to explain the trends, patterns and interesting insights that I observed while analyzing my consumption journal for 14 days. The insights obtained can not only describe the motivations and influences behind my choices but also how society affects one’s choices, that the individual may perceive as a free deterministic choice based on personal inclinations.
Looking through my journal, one of the first trends I observe is how my friend’s and social circle influence my daily choices and routine, and consequently what I end up paying money for. The areas that my consumption choices particularly focused on were food, health, entertainment, clothing, and amusement. The daily choice of consumption seems to have a repetitive pattern that revolves around the same five areas of interest. It can be inferred that the next 14 days in which my daily activities would not be logged, would have the same patterns repeating themselves in a cycle, though not necessarily in the same chronological order. The first go-to solution for everything today has become the internet. A random person on the internet who has managed to make use of smart SEO technologies today is believed more than what our close friends, relatives or well-wishes would suggest for us. My choice of selecting a gym was also based on the internet; even though I saw a better offer on the classified section of a newspaper, I chose to believe the company that had a stronger online and social media presence. The way their package was advertised made it seem that it was a more reasonable offer than what others were offering.
It is worthwhile to note that my body has an average BMI, and does not look unhealthy in any way. But as a consumer of television and online entertainment, the brain is conditioned to give acceptance to only certain types of bodies that are repeatedly shown in advertisement and the entertainment industry as the ideal. Larger or curvy women with more feminine features and bodies are not the Industry standard today, that prefers athletic and slender body types. As a result, even people with normal body composition and BMI are pressured to go the gyms and work out to get that look and conform to society’s ideals. This, in turn, produces consumption as more and more people flock towards fitness centers to achieve the look they get exposed to on a regular basis. One way of studying how advertising works on a society’s choices is through the sociological approach. The sociological approach to study advertisement is defined as:
“What does the text content that is relevant to such matters as socioeconomic class, gender, race, status, and role? What is the product and what does it reflect about social concerns and the problems of people in their everyday lives?” (Asa)
The sociological approach is quite helpful in explaining my choices to be influenced by the society and how it collectively perceives something. The second pattern I noticed regarding my choice of entertainment was that I tried to stick to my inclinations and feelings about a film more than what others had perceived the same film to be. Man of Steel and Batman V Superman were the two films I watched during these two weeks, and these films had a quite divisive reception. So the second pattern I noted in myself was that I took what I consume as entertainment seriously and am more psychologically inclined to appreciate character motivations, personalities and the way they react to a particular situation than just raw entertainment that is fun but forgettable. The social circle around me still managed to convince me to pay 9$ for the cinema ticket to watch the film that everyone is talking about.
In my selection of attire and shoes for the gym, I chose relatively cheaper options in the market but ones that still belonged to well-known and recognized brands of the world. Perhaps it may not just be my Asian heritage that convinced me to select the attire, but how Asians are portrayed in films, advertising and the media that affected my choices. Fashion and clothing choices today are highly sociological. Individual fashion choices may be seen as out-of-fashion and less-trendy. It is a fact that exercise in the gym can be easily performed in a standard tracksuit, but we are conditioned by advertising to associate revealing attire such as sports bras to fitness, leading to more and more women choosing to dress that way when they arrive at the gym. Personal sensibilities and inhibitions to adopting specific forms of attire may slowly be overshadowed by the collective sense of what is fashionable in society.
Further patterns I noted in my entertainment consumption and that of my friends was the preference of using streaming services over regular television. A Netflix subscription is becoming an increasing norm today. This can also be owed to the general perception of social media users that streaming services offer more original and high-quality content than standard regulated television programming. Internet advertising and social media not only seemed to affect our choices of entertainment but in my case, the choice of what dish I must cook to make my friends happy.
The exercise of recording my consumption practices was quite useful generally in determining influences of different forms of advertising that I am exposed to and the approach that I consider to be most likely correct in analyzing those patterns. Qualitative data for a larger sample size could provide highly useful insights for psychologists, economists and social scientists to study emerging trends of consumption in today’s economy.
Asa, Berger, Arthur. “Analysing Print Advertisements: Six Ways of Looking at a Fidji Perfume Advertisement.” Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society. Vol. 16. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011. 22 vols. 8-21.