Wharton recently held a conference called “Pioneers in Marketing. The issue of mixing apparently came up (see Monday’s post “Mixing not matching”).
The definition of luxury lifestyle used to translate to an image of old-money Palm Beach, said George Ayres, vice president of marketing for Jaguar North America. Today, it is much more difficult to conjure up a consistent picture of luxury living. People may live in expensive homes and drive luxury cars, but purchase Evian water by the case at Costco and live with barely any furniture, he said. “They might have two bean bag chairs, but they have the car. That’s how they decided to express themselves. Other people might drive a Honda Excel, but have a plasma TV.”
Status consumption is one of the grammars of the marketplace. The ability for new and larger groups to participate in this grammar is one of the things that helped create a “consumer society.” It’s a little stunning to think that “ordinary consumers” should now be cavalier about something that was once a solemn undertaking, a secret passion, a quilty secret, and the magnetic north of the consumer society.
It is all very well to say, as Silverstein does, that this is strategic behavior, or to say, as the post modernists do, that all signs are drained of meaning and are now devalued and unmoored. There is a good deal more to say here.
For a fuller account of the conference, go here.