Consumer culture is a theory in marketing that suggests that the modern human society is subjected to strong forces of consumerism where buying consumer goods has now become a cultural practice that fosters social behaviors.
Transformation to a Consumerist Society
“You don’t need it but you want to buy”
Ours is now a consumerist society. Key milestones in this transformation:“The 1920s were a perfect storm of cultural changes that led to the occupation called public relations coming into the media spotlight. After World War One, the country made a shift to a consumer culture. Along with this shift came a fascination with the notion of public opinion and formalized attempts to influence it,” Penning, 2008, p.345 stated. Adam Curtis’ documentary, Century of the Self, explores the rise of consumerism and the issue of power and democracy. One of the individuals discussed in this documentary is Edwards Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays is often referred to as the founding father of public relations and drew on his uncle’s work to help organisations persuade consumers to buy their products. The documentary explores how understanding human needs and wants enabled the control of the masses.
The politics of consumption
Bernays initially recognised the way in which persuasive techniques could be used in politics and was part of the Committee on Public Information helping to ‘sell the war’ to the American people. Bernays saw propaganda as a legitimate tool and a way to manufacture consent.
Bernays ultimately used his experiences and techniques to work with large organisations targeting consumers. One of his most famous campaigns was known as the torches of freedom.
- Tobacco company – aim to increase their market by 50%
- He linked the cause of women smoking to the women’s rights movement and the suffragettes
13. Solomon, M.R. (2019). Consumer behavior: buying, having, and being. Harlow (England), Etc.: Pearson.
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