Tuesday 9 September 2008

Two recent reads: The Tipping Point and Living it Up

The Tipping Point is by Malcolm Gladwell (2000), I've just finished reading it. It talks about Social epidemics, how they happen and what you need to make one happen. The book is really just a series of case studies, it starts with 'Hush Puppy' shoes, talks about Paul Revere's Ride and the American Revolution. He talks about Sesame Street, Broken Glass syndrome and teenage smoking. Each of the case studies are interesting in their own right and no doubt this book has helped shape the marketing strategies of many marketing men! I concluded that if you want to successfully start a social epidemic you need to create rapid word of mouth. The book also highlights the huge difficulties faced by those trying to get people to consume less. As businesses gain better understandings of how to market and sell their products thanks to the findings of psychologists and books like Gladwell's, highly consumerist social epidemics are going to appear over and over again! However, the environmental and voluntary simplicity movement could learn a lot from this book.
'Living in Up, America's Love Affair with Luxury' is written by James Twitchell (2002) an English Lecturer from the University of Florida. I bought it in Oxfam in Guildford a couple of months ago. It explores the evolution of the luxury phenomenon and how the marketing of luxury products now lies at the heart of consumerism. Twitchell observes life in the Luxury shopping streets and malls of New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. While the book derides the hollowness of conspicuous consumption he seems to argue throughout that the alternatives are worse. The following quote exemplifies this: 'Trusting pocket books over prayer books may make the world safer and even more humane. After all, the only things that separate us are... things. And you can buy things. You can't buy ancestry, religious affiliation, or the number of vowels in your name. Consuming status at the cash register is vulgar, to be sure, but the alternatives have often been worse.' The consumption of status symbols is undoubtedly democratic. Status, the respect of others and so on does not have to come through status symbols, in fact conspicuous consumption can often have the opposite effect!

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