Shopping and Selling in a Post-Consumer World

By Scott Goodson, Founder of global micro ad-agency StrawberryFrog.

I walked by the Chanel store in Soho again today and the sale sign is still up. That’s kinda weird. Chanel?

Consumption is what has inspired growth in the economy – here in the US and everywhere in the world. Consumption was the ideology and the doctrine.

It is hugely important when it comes to who we are as people. I wear these brands and project a persona to the world. I drive a British car and I am an English aristocrat. I buy a hybrid and I’m green. I wear French cosmetics and I have the jaunt of Heidi Klum. I buy IKEA furniture and I’m wise not rich. I wear Asics lifestyle sneakers and am cooler than East Berlin.

Consumption has been the source of identity for billions of people who dream for and desire ever-rising material standards. But consumption has changed. It happened one night in a dark, crowded boardroom in New York sometime last October. Before then, we were happy to consume just like we always had. Susie bought a pair of jeans and felt like she had all cockiness, pride and guts of a rock band. Charlie bought a Swedish Vodka and felt like he was part of the progressive urban bourgeois. The Carlsons bought a Jeep and felt like they had the right to go blasting off the road to some clam shack beside the beach at Montauk.

But then in the blink of an eye it all changed. We can’t consume like we did in the past, even if we wanted to (environment aside). It’s not the same. It feels different.

Consumerism is giving way to a post-product world where people want to have new kinds of identities. People feel a little embarrassed to be consumers today. I shop but I do it online, and when no one is watching.

In this crisis, people will need to find a new kind of ideology to belong to, a new movement that best suits their needs and desires, wants and values. If consuming isn’t what it’s all about, then what’s it all about?

Attitudes towards consumption are changing, and with them some of the foundations of our world and how we live and how people view us at this transformational inflection point in marketing. I have noticed that the relationship between the consumer and the product, which was defined in marketing 101 for the past seventy five years has been upset by technology, globalization, more sophisticated consumers, the economy, the environment, the changing world.

Shifts in society create opportunity. Social movements change habits. I happen to think we are entering an era of Cultural Movements, the post-product era. Brands can crystallize, lead and curate mass movements. Once you have a cultural movement you can do anything in a fragmenting media world.

We live in times of structural change and crisis – in all industries. In my business, branding and advertising, the industry is going through massive change. The systems and models of the past are not the systems of the future.

This change in consumption is inspiring some people to take the opportunity that turmoil offers to rethink the way we do things and embrace difference and alternative thinking. This is happening while many brands are retreating into the safety of the past. Today’s world is for those innovators who are thinking different, doing something different, who have a new point of view on how to relate to each other in the future.

All this is happening while I’m connecting on Facebook and Chanel is still is on sale in the store as conspicuous consumption becomes more and more unpopular. And yet, online, shopping is on the increase – ushering in a new kind of consumerism. Should we call it “inconspicuous consumerism”?” Who knows. But if you put your finger on the pulse, you’ll feel that people still get a thrill of buying, but without walking down 5th Avenue with a bunch of shopping bags

Scott Goodson is founder of ad agency StrawberryFrog, and is a guest blogger for Brand New Day this week.