You are what you consume


I came across this arresting thought in a textbook yesterday, and it won’t stop ricocheting round my brain like a silver ball bearing in a pinball machine.

The quote was from an article which originally appeared in The Times back in 1999 which proposed that the car we drive is the ultimate class indicator.  An advertising agency carried out a survey of suburban attitudes of six million people living on new housing estates across the UK, followed up by information gathered from representative focus groups.  The agency homed in on the car as a key status symbol, with the rationale that “by adding and subtracting gadgets you can create a caste system more intricate than that of India”.  The visible statement of status through the precise model number on the car’s boot says just as much as the buttons on a Saville Row suit, the article’s author argued.

In a globalised world of choice, the logo we select to wear on our clothes, handbag, glasses, key-ring, shoes, jewellery and the brands we buy – cars, food or whatever – do seem to divide us up neatly into distinct tribes.  A marketing person’s dream.

I am no doubt as guilty as the next person of fitting this mould.  How sad that our three score years and ten should be spent simply accumulating the end products of an ad agency’s machine.

Buyer beware.

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