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THE ANTI-DEMOCRATIZATION OF CONSUMPTION

May 14, 2013 — History tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

OK. FINE. Science actually told us that. But History proved it. For example: If alcohol is prohibited, everyone will make it in bathtubs and drink it secretly. If ladies can’t vote, they ain’t going to put up with that for long. And lo and behold, ladies be voting.

Thanks, History! 

And since we, as marketers, are basically the seventh-grade drama club of the business world, our equal/opposite reactions are more flamboyant than anyone else’s.

 What am I talking about, you ask?

 The anti-democratization of consumption.

 But what does that mean in actual real words? I will explain.

Remember when you used to have to pay $1,995 at Barney’s to buy a Prabal Gurung dress? Now for just $13.98 (on clearance … online …) you can buy a Prabal Gurung for Target dress! Fashion for all! Fashion for the people! It’s like Les Mis but with more dresses and less singing!

 But as we know, History reminds us that there will be an opposite reaction to “fashion for all.”

So now, we have the anti-democratization. The re-exclusivication. Brands are making it their job to make things more exclusive through limited time offers, secret sales and the dreaded first-come, first-served. 

Oh, you didn’t buy that French antique farmhouse pitcher on Etsy you liked the second you saw it? THAT’S TOO BAD. There was literally ONLY one.

The food world is notorious for this. Restaurants with special tasting menus that exist for one night and one night only. Bars in parts of Brooklyn that I’m not even cool enough to know the names of that you can only get into with a secret code word. Food trucks that tweet their location an hour ahead of time, and if you miss it, you miss it.

 Then, there’s Gilt. A (devil)site that gives you 48 hours to shop a virtual trunk show for clothes, shoes, handbags, furniture, etc., and they’ve expanded into your pantry. You are no longer safe from impulse shopping for every room of your house. For a mere $.05 for shipping, you can get eight 6-ounce frozen skin-on halibut filets delivered to your door. Only $99, down from $110! (A STEAL!) Get them before they run out. And they WILL run out.

 As a consumer, I say: THIS. IS. NUTS. So what if I can’t get the same Louis Vuitton bag that I see when I pass by their storefront? Isn’t that what makes it aspirational? That it is so difficult to attain? Isn’t that what makes the brand a luxury brand? Not that it’s cheapening itself by making LV for Sears.

As a marketer, I say: What’s next? Are we alienating our consumers by pandering to their need to belong to hivemind? Or do they really, truly want and need to belong to something bigger? There’s already a huge movement toward local and seasonal trends in food and beverage. Will that translate into clothing? Accessories? Construction? And how will major brands react? Are we entering or exiting the French Revolution of our marketplace? To hell with the aristocratic brands … as long as I can get my California Almond Butter bars shipped to my house.

Bethany Novak About the Author
Bethany Novak Former Broadcast Producer

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