More on the new mixing


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.

5 thoughts on “More on the new mixing

  1. AH

    The thing about mixing is that it allows for uniqueness and conformity all at the same time. If I have a Prada hat and a Gap shirt, and my friend has a Gap hat and Prada shoes, we’re in the same fashion niche, but not identical as we would almost definitely be in all Ralph Lauren.

    Also, it’s a superficial gesture toward “keeping it real,” a big meme for the coming-up generations. “See, I didn’t get it from The Man. I put it together myself!”

  2. AH

    And more: One way class stratification was enforced in the past was that you couldn’t do just part of the luxury deal. If you had a nice house but a ratty car, or vice versa, you were marked as noveau riche or worse. It was considered bad manners to go to an expensive restaurant in cheap clothes.

    So in part it is the breakdown of that authoritarian enforcement of who “belongs” in the class, or keeping the gestalt whole. There’s no need to labor the contemporary breakdown of authoritarian enforcement of much of anything.

  3. Grant

    Will, thanks for the clarification. Grant

    AH, First two points are exactly right. “uniqueness and conformity all at the same time” and “keeping it real” strike me as right on target. On the last point, I am calling this the Diderot effect, after the essay Diderot wrote on the effects of his new dressing gown. There’s a reference here, if you’re interested. Very apt points. Thanks, Grant

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