Free «Consumerism in Modern America» Essay Sample

The history of consumerism in the twentieth-century America has been mainly shaped by three main participants: advertisers, consumers, and consumerists. Advertisers, like those of Philip Morris cigarettes, sought to gain influence over buyers and believe that when the number of the latter grown, the production increases. Consumerists believed that all individuals deserved proper services for their money. Moreover, they expressed the idea that a proper consumer was the one who was moderate in spending. The role of the purchaser was thus shaped through the interplay of these dissenting views. Consequently, at the end of the 20th century, the American consumerism transformed from the duty of an American citizen to the ideal character of the one. Therefore, the following paper aims to analyze the Philip Morris’s advert together with Ditcher’s memo on cigarette advertising in the light of the McGovern’s ideas concerning an American citizen as a consumer, and the roles of advertisers, buyers, and consumerists.

To start from, the Philip Morris’s advert and the Ditcher’s memo on cigarette advertising are based on the perception of Americans as, primarily, consumers. As proposed by McGovern, the inhabitants of the US have increasingly adopted the notion of consuming as a symbol of proper citizenship. In the past, consumption, in itself, was considered as a sure way of nation-building. Owing to this belief and trend, the masses were thus obliged to spend as a way of boosting their sense of pride and citizenry. As such, Philip Morris producers aimed to find a market among the people whose sense of duty to the nation was defined primarily as that of consumers. This correlates with the Ditcher’s assertion that the nature of advertising has to be shaped more and more based on the understanding of consumer behaviors.

Additionally, advertisements often take into consideration researches conducted with regards to consumer behaviors and try to appeal to the consumers’ thoughts and beliefs and rely on their experiences. This fact has been reinforced in the advertisement of Philip Morris cigarette brand. The woman holding the lit cigarette and sharing it with the man could be indicative of the pride and memories that are associated with sharing. Speaking about this particular fact, Ditcher infers that smoking is particularly useful in making friendships by breaking down social barriers through common experiences and similar ideas (9). Additionally, instances of lighting cigarettes for other smokers bear erotic significance and also serve as a gesture of friendliness. Therefore, the notion of shared experiences, in terms of acquisition and use of goods, as well as the experiences of joint usage can be maximized by advertisers in order to appeal to consumers.

Moreover, McGovern highlights that the consumer culture has become heavily dependent on brands, trademarks, and introduction of new goods. In this case, mass media plays a fundamental role. Clearly, brands are a strategy used by most advertisers, including Philip Morris, in order to distinguish their products in the market. Furthermore, forms of media are vital in advertising of brands and trademarks. As an illustration, the advert under consideration uses bright colors to create a visual appeal to potential buyers. Based on the dressing and the persons’ appearances, one can conclude that the advertisement is targeted at the middle class that is formed by the majority of the consumers.

The notion of branding is further advanced in Ditcher’s study of cigarette smokers’ habits. In particular, the researcher states that smokers are usually devoted to specific brands (20). This loyalty is proven through instances of refusing to accept invitations to smoke because of the difference in brands of the cigarettes. At the same time, a guest feels flattered when a host shares the same brand of cigarettes. The mentioned ideas are employed by marketers and producers to create a consumer society. Analyzing the Philip Morris brand, it is possible to conclude that it seeks to capitalize and establish itself by appealing to a youthful population as evident in its advertisement phrase, “That’s why today’s Philip Morris… has much appeal to our young smokers.” Owing to these words, the public gets the perceptions that the brand is a representation of a younger population of smokers. Hopefully, the adoption of this brand by a young smoker guarantees loyalty for a longer time. At the same time, from the Ditcher’s memo, it is clear that the acquisition of a taste of a certain brand is not immediate for most smokers (17). One needs to use it repeatedly, and a change in brands requires adjustment all over again in order to get accustomed to the taste (18). Therefore, appealing to a young generation is strategic because the brand is identified with young smokers, while the latter will most likely remain loyal to avoid the inconvenience of the unpleasant taste of unknown brand. Brand loyalty and brand advertising, thus, remain necessary factors that have to be considered by all companies.

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To continue, modernization plays a significant role in the shifting attitude concerning advertising and, consequently, consumerism. McGovern states that the urban culture of commerce brings along “frank allusions to sex and sensory gratification”. It means that contemporary marketers go against ideals of moral order and disrupt the ideas relating to traditional popular beliefs. The Philip Morris brand is not an exception. From its slogan, “Philip Morris … gentle for modern taste”, it is obvious that the brand seeks to associate with modernity. Captions such as “… what modern taste demands” are highly suggestive of the constant shift in consumers’ thoughts regarding modernity and urbanized commerce. Additionally, they show an understanding and exploitation of this shifting consumer attitude by advertisers.

Ditcher advances the idea of modernism and its influences on consumers of cigarettes. He states that it has been reported that smokers are more concerned with the specific pleasures and appeals that they obtain from smoking than with other factors (4). The appeal to sensual gratification, as a quality of modernity, is further fostered by adverts. As it can be seen, Philip Morris uses the cover with an attractive lady to appeal to the male generation and to set a standard for the females. As a result, many young people associate cigarettes with physical pleasure. On the other hand, Ditcher mentions that in addition to the taste of tobacco, many people smoke because of the associated oral pleasure (6). This sensory satisfaction, as Ditcher explains, “is just as fundamental as sexuality and hunger” (6). In line with McGovern’s idea, Ditcher reports that smoking is used as a distractor in the modern days (7-8). For instance, most smokers claim that smoking makes time pass quickly. Therefore, it is probable that as a result of modern influences in commerce and consumer thinking, advertisers employ various ideas of modernity in order to get more clients.

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What is more, Philip Morris advert and Ditcher’s memo show the struggle for supremacy in influencing consumers that is existent between advertisers and consumerists. Advertisers seek to appeal to the masses and hopefully surpass the challenges and obstacles that consumerists lay in the way. For example, Philip Morris branders have to fulfill the task of persuading consumers who may be dissuaded by consumerist claims. The need to convince the clients to purchase the cigarette can be deduced from the statements in the adverts. For example, Philip Morris brand tries to reach out to the gentleness that is within the human nature; that is, to gentle thoughts that can only be comprehended when being experienced. This gentleness is also attributed to the nature of “today’s Philip Morris”. The advert calls for individuals to “enjoy the gentle pleasure”. These statements illustrate the advertiser’s struggle for influence over consumers’ minds hoping that they will be drawn towards smoking and to the brand because of the great attributes of the cigarette.

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In a deeper sense, though, the invitation to enjoy the qualities of the product also has an intention to dissuade the client who has been influenced by consumerist behaviors. Consumerists, who take on a Republican approach, insist that material goods are just but a part of the happiness in life (McGovern). On the other hand, the advertisers seek to imprint the notion that Philip Morris cigarettes are the only main way of gratifying the need for experiencing gentleness. However, Ditcher identifies this approach of appeal to taste as ineffective in cigarette advertisements (3). He claims that a smoker may not necessarily have a preference for a certain brand over another, except if they are accustomed to it, and if the slogan accompanying the advert attempts to exonerate them from the guilty feelings that often accompany the habit. Therefore, he recommends that advertisers should concentrate on other major attractors to smoking and work on slogans that give absolution to the potential customers. In this way, they are most likely going to attract a larger client base.

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Additionally, Ditcher’s memorandum and Philip Morris advertisement expose the underlying attitude prominent among many advertisers that is “a guardianship of greater values” (McGovern). From the advert, the main aim of the advertiser is to enlighten and offer a form of a solution to the consumer. In particular, in the advertisement, the individual is proposed a chance to experience a greatness that is beyond words. Moreover, the consumer is lured into purchasing the brand because of the appeal to modernity that is emphasized. It is as if Philip Morris is the rescue for that young person who is desperate for gentleness and in need of identification with something more contemporary.

Ditcher reinforces this attitude by underlying that the consumers of cigarettes, owing to self-indulgence, hope for the advertisement to give them relief from participating in a ‘guilty’ habit (3). He states that a good slogan is the one which reassures the smoker that they will not be punished if they pursue their harmful habit. Furthermore, advertisers make people think that using a cigarette is a coping mechanism that helps to fight loneliness and serves as a relaxer enabling people to think clearly (Ditcher 9, 15, 14). It seems as though the adverts of cigarettes are offering their prospective buyers solutions for “baffling personal difficulties (McGovern).

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While the memorandum and the advert speak of the control of an advertiser over a consumer, they also indicate the short-comings and frustrations that advertisers face. For instance, McGovern mentions that while they often boast of large coverage through various forms of media, and of the ability to effectively impart ideas into the minds of consumers, they often cannot predict or guide consumer spending. For example, the Philip Morris advert appeals to a younger population through the ad which can reach many people across a large geographical area and different walks of life, but it cannot regulate how they spend in terms of purchasing the products.

Ditcher further elaborates on the limits that the advertisers face regarding consumer spending. The first challenge is the inadequate convincing power adopted by many slogans (2). For example, the Philip Morris slogan does not sufficiently vindicate its target customers from any feelings of guilt that they may be facing due to smoking. This flaw may thus not attract more youth, especially if another brand has a slogan that appeals to modernity and the youth while exonerating them from the feeling of guilt. The second issue lies in the consumer loyalty to brand (Ditcher 17). The different tastes in the cigarettes of various brands may push away smokers who are accustomed to another brand, despite the appeals made by the advertiser. Thus, the advertiser cannot make the customer spend on their brands. Lastly, consumers, even after being drawn to the brand through advertising, often try to control the level of their intake of products (19). In the case of cigarettes, Ditcher reports that many smokers relate excessive smoking with negative effects (18) and guilty feelings due to its perception as immoral (19) and therefore try to cut down on smoking. Consequently, their spending on the product is affected, and the advertiser cannot do anything about it. Other personal reasons, such as financial capability may also restrict consumers in their purchasing tendencies.

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Moreover, the promise of certainty and the belief in the superiority of the advertiser can be inferred from the memorandum and the advert. McGovern asserts that the promises that the consumers are given are majorly a result of their objectification for the purposes of studying them. The understanding of the association of the youth and the desire for sensual gratification and love for modernity forms a basis in which the product, that is, Philip Morris cigarette, is packaged, prepared, and marketed. From the advert, one can see the assumption of the advertiser that the consumer is often a naïve and has the intelligence levels of a twelve-year-old (McGovern). The simplicity in the statements on the advert, as well as little evidence of persuasion other than on grounds of modernity and product quality, elaborates the perceptions that the advertisers had regarding the customers. Overall, it is obvious that such simple tactics rarely work for the marketers (McGovern).

With regards to the mentioned above, the memorandum on cigarette advertising advises that a study of the consumer population is necessary for a successful marketing (Ditcher 1). However, the main difference is that Ditcher does not objectify the consumers but rather studies them in their day to day normal living. Possibly, this is the underlying reason for the contrasting approach in advertising. Unlike the simple and often minor arguments and appeals suggested by the Philip Morris brand, Ditcher proposes appealing to absolution and other important factors. Ditcher’s studies show that consumers may be much more complex than hitherto thought by the advertisers.

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To sum up, advertising is an important part of consumerism. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered to shape and affect consumer behavior. Some adverts such as the one of Philip Morris cigarettes treat consumers as objects that are easy to persuade and influence. It is obvious that advertisers look for consumers among the naïve target population, just as explained by McGovern. On the contrary, Ditcher’s memorandum highlights the importance of studying the behaviors of the consumer population in order to adjust advertisements and quality of goods. He encourages not to consider buyers as mere objects. Therefore, advertisers should adopt some of the strategies proposed by Ditcher so as to be able to know how to market and reach the consumer group they aim to attract. In order to convince their target consumers, advertisers should thus spend time studying the market in an open manner and without objectification so as to learn the differences between individuals and to be able to address some of the challenges posed by consumerists by making proper appeals in adverts.

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