Dreams and Needs
Factory. Strategies of
a consumer society
Fábrica de Sueños,
anhelos y necesidades.
Las estrategias de la
sociedad de consumo
Luis Rodrigo Martín
University of Valladolid
lrodrigo@hmca.uva.es
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Dreams and Needs
Factory. Strategies of
a consumer society
Fábrica de Sueños,
anhelos y necesidades.
Las estrategias de la
sociedad de consumo
El presente artículo explora las principales estrategias surgidas en el seno de las so-
ciedades de consumo y consumistas que mediante la comunicación comercial, el
marketing y la publicidad han congurado un tipo de ciudadano particular. El con-
sumo trasladó su eje de la satisfacción de necesidades propias de las personas hacia
un plano mucho más social y cultural en el que la imitación, el estatus y las nuevas
formas de integración en la estructura social están íntimamente relacionadas con los
bienes y servicios que se consumen. La obsolescencia, la moda, el caos planicado
y el hedonismo son algunas de las principales estrategias que se analizan en la pre-
sente investigación..
This article explores the main strategies that have come from the heart of consu-
mer societies which, by means of commercial communication, marketing and pu-
blicity, have shaped a particular kind of citizen. Consumption shifted from satisfying
peoples individual needs to a much more social and cultural level where imitation,
status and new ways of integration in the social structure are closely related to con-
sumer goods and services. Obsolescence, fashion, planned chaos and hedonism are
some of the main strategies that are analyzed in this research..
RESUMEN
ABSTRACT
Clasicación JEL:
M37,M39
Palabras clave:
Consumo,
estrategias publicita-
rias, marketing,
cultura y comuni-
cación
JEL Classication:
M37, M39
Key words:
Consumption,
advertising strategies,
marketing, culture
and communication
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Introduction
The prestigious French economist J.B. Say coined
a phrase which later became known as “Say’s
Law,” and states:
“People will automatically and anxiously consume
everything that their nations economy may produce.”
However, we should not forget that the period
of time when J. B. Say came up with his consumer
behaviour law was characterized by the lack of
products in markets. This lack was so significant
that even basic commodities were difficult to
find. According to J. B. Say, production had to be
linked to fair distribution so that it could satisfy
the social needs.
Thus, outside his thinking lay any kind of
consumption based on the cultural meaning and
symbolic value of merchandise as a reflection of
personality, status or social class. If everything
that national economies were able to produce
was consumed it was simply because the national
economies were unable to produce even the
minimum in order to sustain the population.
Technological advances meant greater effi-
ciency in the production of merchandise. The use
of new methods of production, new energy
sources and assembly lines to organise work
contributed to the creation of mass production.
For the first time in history the conditions
under which J. B. Say had formulated his famous
theory had changed. Production was able to
turn out even more merchandise than what the
actual market demanded, which in turn logically
resulted in excess stock and the need to
encourage people to buy up the merchandise.
According to V. Packard
2
, in a market saturated
with products, such as consumer society markets
where two fths of the items we possess are purely
non-essential or luxuries, new ways that offer
benefits must be started in order to keep the
economic system working. This author points
out, and rightly so in our opinion, that a system of
consumer capitalism soon requires:
• A system of replacements sales.
• Selling more of a product to each family
unit.
• Having a system which can permanently
think up new or improved products.
Making other items that people do not have
and which therefore may be consumed.
This all leads to an awareness of the fact that
consumer capitalism must always be on the
lookout for ways to promote consumption, and
creating new needs in consumers to be satisfied
by buying products is vital for the economic
systems feedback. Consumption is the current
driving force of modern economies, and to slow
down consumption is to slow down the growth
of the economy. In order to create more wealth it
is necessary to consume more and more. If the
wealth brought about by consumption is correctly
redistributed it will gradually increase and so citi-
zens will own more and more possessions and
their sense of wellbeing will therefore increase.
The logic of the new economic paradigm was
clear: Consumption must grow on a permanent
basis.
In order to achieve this infinite growth in
consumption on the part of citizens, thereby
keeping the whole economic cycle growing,
advertising and marketing become absolutely
necessary because they create the need to con-
sume in order to satisfy the cultural, social and
communication needs of the final consumer.
In the first stages of production capitalism we
can observe a trend which, for the sake of a more
perfect running of the system, would later give
way to greater efforts to constantly offer new
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designs of the same product. Thus, the same
product is presented over and over as an improved
version of itself rather than having to research
and offer new and different products or services.
As P. Mazur
3
rightly points out, the need
soon appeared to create a public with as voracious
and constant an appetite for consumer products
as the machinery which churns out these items.
Products coming off the assembly line have to be
consumed at a similar pace as production in
order to avoid costly and unproductive accumu-
lation of stock and in turn the appearance of
depressed markets.
As a result, advertising becomes a key issue in
the correct development of national markets and
economies. These needs and desires must contin-
uously grow in order to maintain the economic
cycle rate of growth. In addition, advertising
must be responsible for changing the buying
behaviour of consumers so that they go from
thinking that a purchase is made in order to
satisfy an obvious need, to a new type of consum-
erism where the sale of products with attractive
status satisfies unconscious anxieties instead of
obvious needs. A. Lucas
thesis is along these
lines:
“Advertising speech is an ideological speech.
It interprets human beings as subjects who
consciously or unconsciously try to impose a
certain system of representations of the world
and to attach them to specialized behaviour
patterns that are submitted to the reproduction
of the underlying social structure to that same
representations
1
system”.
In light of this the mass media system, espe-
cially through advertising and marketing and
other techniques aimed at promoting consump-
1 Lucas, A. (1990). “Fantasmática de la publicidad”. Cuadernos
de Contrapunto. Buenos Aires. p. 65.
tion, such as public relations and corporate
image development, designed strategies that led
to a rise in sales. Among these we will highlight
various premises that turned out to be especially
significant in the shaping of consumption as we
know it today and which contributed to mould-
ing a specific type of citizen who has certain needs
and desires, which ended up creating a whole
consumer culture. To sum up, it is a way of under-
standing a world where both advertising commu-
nication and consumption play a major role.
There is always room for more
When markets start to become saturated and
people do not buy merchandise as quickly as
manufacturers would like, the race is on to find
strategies that lead consumers to progressively
buy more products. The first strategy that was
started in the mass consumer society is as
obvious as effective. It was simply to encourage
consumers to buy more units of the product
they were used to buying, but even more
quantities than logic dictates.
The first strategy that came out of production
and was brought to the public was to introduce
colour and the concept of “matching”. This
created the need to get more than one of each
item in order to combine it with the rest of the
products and to achieve the style and the fashion
at that time by “matching”. A clear example of
this is the impressive rise in the sale of coloured
stockings for women, a new product to combine
with each outfit, or the rise in the sale of spec-
tacles which are now considered to be a stylish
accessory that has to go with the outfit.
Soon, efforts to duplicate items in each house-
hold appeared, and once duplicated, each room
should be fitted out. So, for example, once each
room had a radio in it, the next thing was to have
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two televisions, and when most homes had
acquired the second television it became fash-
ionable to put another television in the kitchen
too. This logic of multiplying the number of
items in each home very soon required the
introduction of a new concept: every family
needed to have a second house and both had to
be fully equipped.
At the same time another idea was introduced:
the citizen of modern society was slave to having
their own vehicle. Advertising was responsible
for very successfully introducing the advantages
of possessing a second car, the first representing
freedom and the second social status.
Once the chances of consuming more than
one unit had been explored, a second goal had
to be presented to consumers: Modern day living
requires that each product bought has to be
bigger and bigger or more and more complex,
and if it’s both, all the better. This could justify a
rise in the price of the products as, obviously,
they could not cost the same as before, because
they are bigger or more complex than before.
Progress through the spirit of getting
rid of things
The plan to increase the volume of sales could
not rise in an unlimited way only based only on
the need to buy more and more things. That first
idea had to be supplemented by creating a
mentality that allowed people to get rid of things
in order to replace them with new, more modern
and more useful things. Publicity campaigns
focused their messages on highlighting the idea
that old things were not decent, they were ugly
and old fashioned and modern citizens needed
new things and instead of hanging on to obsolete
things that tarnished the image of the owner.
This strategy went hand in hand with doing
away with the cultural point of view of the
marginal use of objects. Traditionally, in any
country in the world, it was thought that prod-
ucts had to keep clients satisfied for a long time.
This mentality came from the old idea of “waste
not, want not.” The communication instrument
at the service of manufacturers tried to eradicate
this idea from the collective consciousness.
Durability was a factor that was highly appre-
ciated and consumers made an effort to take care
of their products, so they would last as long as
possible and they could achieve the greatest
return on the price they paid for them.
Little by little the durability of consumer
products was not a significant feature anymore
and ended up cast aside in favor of the new
design of modern disposable appearance. New
products deliberately designed to be used only
once started to appear everywhere, such as razor
blades or products in containers specially de-
signed so that part of their content was impos-
sible to take out of the container and had to be
thrown out, or throw away wrappings.
However, all this waste also incurs a cost
which the consumer, due to increases in prices,
ends up paying. Many disposable containers are
up to ten times more expensive than traditional
ones and very often the efforts made to research
and design the container are considerably greater
than the contents themselves. Although it may
seem a paradox, on many occasions the resources
invested in research and development were very
often aimed at finding ways to increase the sales
of these products because they could not be
used. Simple examples of this include the efforts
made on research and industrial design so that
lipsticks cannot not be fully used up, or glue
pots with an attached brush which is too short
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to reach the bottom so that a lot of the glue has
to be thrown out without being used, or aerosols
that do not spray out all of their contents.
Progress through planned obsoles-
cence
The new society which has given consumption
the role of being the driving force behind the
economy requires that products, after a prudent
time, become obsolete in the eyes of the con-
sumer and the need to replace them for new
ones appears. In 1936, Kelley, L. defended obso-
lescence as a resource in order to guarantee the
correct functioning of the whole economic proc-
ess when he stated:
“If merchandise is not turned out faster,
factories will be paralyzed and the workers will
be unemployed
2
.
Basically obsolescence usually means that the
product has no longer any use, but this situation
of no longer being useful may be provoked by
several factors, the most obvious being that the
product no longer works, or the fact that they
look so old-fashioned that their owner does not
want to use them anymore, in most cases because
he or she does not want to be seen using them.
There are several types of obsolescence:
Function obsolescence · When a product is
outdated because there is another product which
does its function better.
Quality obsolescence · When a product breaks
down, even if it is quite new, because that is the
way it has been designed.
Attractive obsolescence · When a product that
works fine becomes antiquated in the eyes of the
owner, which makes it become a lot less desirable.
2 Kelley, L. (1936) “Durabilidad pasada de moda citado en
Packard, V. (1970). Los Artíces del derroche. Editorial Sudamericana.
Buenos Aires. p. 71.
The issue is whether the planning of product
obsolescence is an ethical practice. In a first
analysis of the question, it is obvious that the
main concern is about quality obsolescence and
possible defects that may jeopardize the integrity
and health of consumers, but even if these
doubts are overcome, we should ask ourselves
whether planning a short life for products is a the
correct, ethical and permissible way to do things.
Critics usually wax lyrical that it is deceptive
and is an abuse of consumerstrust in market
regulation and production. For its defenders the
shorter life of products benefits the economy
directly, and indirectly benefits consumers in the
sense that, within a shorter space of time, they
have access to new improved products and greater
development and innovation which would be
difficult to finance if the replacement cycles were
longer. If products had a longer life, the market
would become flooded much sooner than replace-
ment sales could withstand a constant volume of
manufacturing; this fact would imply that in
reality the consumer would miss out on enjoying
faster progress.
One way or the other, the truth is that in
modern consumer societies, products that last
forever are no longer attractive because there has
been a change of mentality in consumers in that
we are now more open to substituting merchandise
in a continuous cycle of renewals which we asso-
ciate with efficiency and modernity.
For years, industrial engineers have concen-
trated their efforts on the research and design of
products which are better, lighter, more robust,
more comfortable, cheaper to make, etc. However,
the development of modern methods of consum-
erism introduces a new variable that is becoming
progressively more important: time. The projects
that engineers get from big companies now re-
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quire them to set a relatively shorter lifespan for
products.
Planned obsolescence of attractive-
ness. Trends
In an effort to continue increasing the rhythm of
product replacement and after exploring other
forms of obsolescence, consumer societies did not
take long to find a new formula with a similar or
greater effectiveness to add to the ones previously
mentioned.
It was a question of turning objects obsolete in
the mind of the consumer, i.e. even though they
were still useful their appearance made them look
undesirable, old-fashioned or inappropriate. What
was really going on is that replacement rhythm
was so fast that it was hard to design new products
which offered significant advantages in the use or
quality of their functions, so markets had to be
flooded with newer products and consumers had
to think that new equals better.
This style obsolescence, some authors call it
psychological obsolescence, happens when a
product becomes obsolete because new versions
of it appear with changes in design, materials or
appearance. Sales of replacements finance the
improvements in design, style and running func-
tion and they provide the opportunity to set
better prices for the new products. Commu-
nication and advertising must convince the con-
sumer that style is the key element in the desir-
ability of the product. Once this idea is set in the
minds of potential buyers, it will only take a
change in the predominant style to achieve an
increase in sales.
In order to be able to understand the whole
phenomenon, we must keep in mind the cultural
importance that the concept of the change had
reached at that time and which now, in 2011,
some political mindsets seem to have redis-
covered. This importance given to change led to
industrial designers as well as consumers to be
more concerned about concepts of style that
made the change clear rather than about the
intrinsic qualities of the product, which is why
designers tended to succumb to extravagance
while fumbling about for something new.
This is how the concept of fashion becomes
important in product design and sale of con-
sumer products. Fashion is basically a cultural
imposition. The strength of trends lies in the
approval or disapproval that certain products or
behaviours will have on the social environment.
Thanks to fashion and cycles, it was possible to
impose and create a need in the consumer. The
example taken was womens clothes and its cycles
of rotation. This principle tried to become
widespread in the production and sale of all
kinds of products.
It was necessary to make consumers want to
get rid of those products that were still perfectly
useful in order to replace them with others that
were fashionable.
The short and sweet life of products
for the home
In the mid-1950s we see that in the most devel-
oped countries, which had become the driving
force behind the consumer revolution and espe-
cially in the USA, the lifespan of products for the
home began to drop at an absolutely scandalous
rate. In actual fact it was a process through
which, clearly, durable consumer products ceased
to exist due to a marked lack of rigor in their
quality. Some studies
6
at that time dared to
measure the lifespan of new electrical appliances
and compared them to those of a previous
decade when technological progress was suppos-
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edly much lower. The result was simply scan-
dalous. Kitchen equipment in the previous dec-
ade lasted seven years, some of the new ones
barely managed to last three years.
The truth is that in some sectors products
were being made only to the bare limits of
operation. The quality of materials and the finish
of products for the home diminished and this
led to a shorter lifespan. The manufacturers’
greatest concern was to make products with a
shorter lifespan, instead of following the tradi-
tional idea of making products that lasted forever.
However, they made sure the products worked
fine during the period of guarantee so that they
did not have to face expensive repairs nor have
to replace the product. A symptom that shows
that diminished quality was planned and encour-
aged from the industry itself can be seen in the
race that, in the early 1950s, kept the manufac-
turers who were aware of these obsolescence
policies busy trying to position themselves in the
market of repairing their own products. Another
strategy that was used in making markets for
products for the home more dynamic was the
creation of new brands that accelerated the
aforementioned psychological or style obsoles-
cence. Basically the introduction of a new brand
worked in the markets according to the following
scheme (Chat 1. Own development).
Products for the home also turned to design
in order to achieve a more modern appearance.
Kitchens and electrical appliances became full of
buttons in order to look more complex. The goal
was for electrical appliances to look more
“scientific”. It was actually purely a marketing
strategy aimed at satisfying the ego of women
from that era who were the only ones on the
receiving end those goods. As we already men-
Chat 1 · Own development
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tioned, the goal was for housewives to have
better self-esteem insofar as they were the only
ones who were able to make these complex
items with so many buttons work, as well as get
the best out of them.
The problem behind this marketing strategy
is that it turned design into a mere element of
sale and it lost its traditional mission of being
more concerned with the functioning of the
product. This change in the orientation of applying
the function of design, despite its apparent sim-
plicity, is a very significant problem which condi-
tions the whole production process.
The following chart aims to represent it
graphically:
Repair business
The business of repairing is based on a double
underlying assumption. On the one hand, as a
result of the policies that led to obsolescence
becoming installed in the sector of production,
items were breaking down more and more often
and closer and closer to the date of purchase. On
the other hand, higher incomes had led to a rise
in prices, the more the consumer paid for a
certain product, the more they would be willing
to pay to have it repaired.
The lucrative business of repairs was built on
these two pillars. This business entailed a per-
verse logic for the consumer. In most cases, the
repairs business fell to sellers themselves which
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in turn gave them more volume of business.
Temptation soon became a frequent practice. The
more expensive a product was, the more profit-
able it was at the moment of sale, but furthermore,
the more the consumer paid at the moment of
purchase the more they would be willing to spend
on its repair without argument.
The growth of the repair business was so
spectacular that it ended up changing its own
logic and it did not take long to create a consum-
erism whereby many companies sold their prod-
ucts practically at cost price just to guarantee the
maintenance, repair and substitution of the prod-
uct’s parts. A clear example of this is the car
industry.
In short, the repair business became one of
the most notable features of the birth of modern
consumer societies which rejected the idea of
producing quality and durable products in favor
of other products either with a higher rotation or
which involved a series of consecutive acts of
consumption for its maintenance. All this was
favored by the following circumstances:
• There were many more things that did not
work well, so there was more volume of
business.
• Spare parts were much more expensive so
that there was a profit margin for whoever
sold or installed them.
• Faulty pieces became more and more
inaccessible, so no matter how skilful the
consumer was, they could not substitute
or repair them because normally they re-
quired a specific tool in order to do so.
• The necessary spare parts were hard to get
because the manufacturers did not distrib-
ute them, therefore they were guaranteed
orders for substitution or repair.
• Manufacturers gave as little information as
they could about the repair of goods.
• There was a tendency to encourage the
consumer to substitute the faulty pieces
instead of having them repaired.
Progress through planned chaos
The globalization of consumerism in western
societies had an unavoidable consequence. As a
population with enough income and understand-
ing of the market gained access to it, consumer
capitalism managed to create certain levels of
progress, which with more or less fair redis-
tribution of wealth, contributed towards a pro-
gressive rise in people’s income thereby also
contributing towards an increase in the percentage
in which this income could be assigned to
consumption. All of this led to more leeway in
applying commercial and communication policies
in order to encourage consumption so that the
system would not slow down.
The manufacturing price of products had
hardly anything to do with the price the products
had in the market. Prices were fixed bearing in
mind strategic criteria such as the quality,
development cost, communication and symbolism
of the actual product. Obviously the relation
between price and production costs does not
fully disappear, but when fixing a price the
psychological criteria of the consumer and the
cultural criteria shared with the social group
have more and more weight.
The role of advertising and other commercial
communication techniques is therefore going to
become increasingly important in setting the
value of consumer items (Chat 3. Own develop-
ment, pag. 34).
When societies lives in an abundance of
products and merchandise the price becomes a
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secondary feature. The more abundance there is,
the less they care about prices. The consumer
society was settled in Spain a bit later than in
other Western countries around 1960. In these
societies the price of products lost its meaning in
favor of the symbolic value of consumption. The
image of identity and status, the sale of
intangibles linked to the product and the cultural
image of the items becomes more and more
important.
Selling dreams
No matter how hard advertising agencies and
salespeople try, all markets have a limit.
Consumer incomes are usually low and in
particular limited. It is true that the new model
of capitalism driven by consumerism had managed
to create in a short space of time a wide range of
potential consumers and it is also true that their
income had also increased, however the time was
coming when consumerism was reaching a cul-
minating point because people were consuming
everything they could afford.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
If the problem was that consumer could not
afford to buy more, the easiest solution was to
make this income grow. Thus, credit went from
being a simple financial resource to becoming
Chat 3 · Own development
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quite a tool at the service of sales. According to
M. Altarriba:
“Consumption is a reward. Purchases made
on credit, the use of cards, turns the consumer
into a complete being for a few moments.
3
However, this transformation did not end up
being that easy, especially for countries like
Spain, where the influence of the strict catholic
moral and the belief that we are in this world to
suffer and you had to earn things by the sweat of
your brow, had over the years created a deep-set
cultural idea that demonized credit and which
was frequently associated with a disorganized
life and people of ill repute. This same situation
also happened in the United States where, albeit
to a lesser extent, credit was a tool that the
puritan moral did not appreciate either.
In the late 50s banks made huge efforts to
change people’s idea of credit. Financial markets,
supported by advertising, worked on getting rid
of the idea of asking for credit as being shameful
or embarrassing. They stated that it was the
opposite, asking for credit was a sign of decision,
of self-confidence fruit of a spirit of enterprise
that made people and the nations they lived in
great. Credit is not begging, but rather an advance
payment of the persons own purchasing power.
Thus, banks trained their staff how to treat
people asking for credit. They had to link credit
to positive resources, show self-confidence, be
cheerful and smiling, shake the applicant’s hand
strongly no matter how weak the offer of
guarantee.
The development of credit and the progressive
change in social and cultural understanding of
3 M. Altarriba (2003) Antopología del consumo y cultura publi-
citaria. Todo lo que me gusta engorda o es pecado en Consumo, pu-
blicidad y cultura. Rey, J.(ed.) Fernandez, J.D. y Pineda, A. MAECEI Edicio-
nes. Sevilla.
the tool boosted the growth of western economic
cycles. In the 1950s, debt in the USA was so
spectacular that in 1960 debts tripled people’s
income. Something similar happened in Spain
in the 1970s. Logically the level of consumption
rose significantly and it was proved that people
buy much more when they do not have to pay
large sums of money all at one time. Because of
credit prices once again became less important.
Credit are is essential in some markets such as
construction.
Nevertheless, credit not only increased the
benefits on the amount of goods that would be
bought, but it also created a new kind of busi-
ness. Many companies understood that sale on
credit was a business itself. It is usually possible
to get more profits thanks to interest on sales
rather than from the sale of the product itself.
Thus, the sale of dreams, as English people named
the fact of people getting into debt in order to
buy things, appeared.
Thus, credit cards became very popular
because they were very easy to use, quick, and
safe. They were also a symbol of status and wealth.
Hedonism for the masses
Hedonism means making an effort to achieve a
global strategy that helps previous strategies to
be even more efficient. It is about building a
population mindset that is led by an intense desire
to possess things and a yearning for momentary
pleasures (Chat 4. Own development, pag. 36).
The support of a strong and well-developed
advertising system and advances in commun-
ication in the new mass media turned out to be
essential in change the cultural perception deeply
ingrained in the Puritanism of the Anglo-Saxon
world and in the Spanish Catholicism of Franco’s
regime in favor of a new culture of consumerism
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which meant people could satisfy some desires
in this life instead of the traditional idea of
keeping them for the next, by learning about the
pleasure of having assets and services offered by
the modern world.
The antagonism of Puritanism, which was
set at odds with the new consumer vision as
the driving force behind economic systems, was
extravagance. Whether Puritanism meant sacri-
fice and restraint, extravagance meant to spend
money without control and to buy things without
second thoughts in order to satisfy oneself. All
in all, hedonism is simply to encourage people
to satisfy their own wishes so that sales rise.
Advertising, as we pointed out before, will
play an essential role in the change of cultural
reference, but it will also be responsible for
creating desires that are satisfied by consumption,
turning them into needs, creating a symbolic
universe of meanings that increase the appeal of
the products and, at the same time, will have to
convince the consumer that not only does he
deserve this pleasure but that also can and allow
himself to give in to this pleasure by shopping.
So advertising basically has a double purpose: to
discredit the spirit of saving and to heighten the
impulse to buy.
Marketing made up the bank holidays in
order to provide the consumer with excuses to
Chat 4 · Own development
Chat 5 · Own development
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buy things. Christmas, Mother’s day, Fathers
day, Saint Valentines Day, sales, etc. are a great
list of examples of good excuses to increase
consumption.
Hedonism is also based on the concept of
immediacy. The satisfaction of desires must be
immediate in a world which in a few years has
experienced a significant rise in the speed of
processes. Industrialization, transport develop-
ment and the new way of experiencing reality
through the immediacy of radio and TV have
ended up setting a new rhythm in people’s daily
lives. In accordance to this, satisfying desires
should also be immediate or, at least, as fast as
possible because the sooner a desire is satisfied,
the sooner a new one will appear and this one
will also have to be satisfied. Advertising rein-
forced its messages with formulas such as
instantly”, “right now”, “immediate delivery”, etc.
Progress through population increase
The last link in the chain of strategies to encour-
age consumption is as logical as effective. The
more consumers there are, the more consump-
tion there will be. It is easy but effective, irrefutable.
Many critics expressed their concern for the
direction that modern societies were taking due
to the level of family debt, or the lack of guar-
antees credits were granted on, or the impossi-
bility of increasing levels of consumption lim-
itlessly. Meanwhile, defenders of capitalism used
to answer these critics by stating the bare fact,
even though it referred to the USA it could be
transferred to any national economy, that every
seven and a half seconds a new consumer is
born, while on the contrary, only every thirty
seconds some consumer says goodbye to consum-
erism by buying a coffin, not to mention the
arrival of immigrants which means a constant
rise in the market and makes the perfect idea of
an unlimited growth in consumption levels
more likely.
More people mean more markets. The idea of
numerous families is great for growing econ-
omies, so that a common element in policies, no
matter what its ideological orientation, is encour-
aging the birthrate. If we think of Spain, the
governments of Francos regime established and
advertised prizes for birthrate which, in the case
of Spain, had the added economic advantage of
replacing a population decimated by the civil
war and it contributed to promote the delirious
idea of the empire.
In a first approach to the idea of increasing
the population and its economic repercussion in
shaping consumer societies we can find that a
rise in the birthrate directly implies encourage-
ment for many and very different sectors. Raising
the birthrate involves at least the need to:
• Build more houses that are fully furnished,
so that they are a real home.
• Invest in new communication services.
• Build thousands of kilometers of road.
• Build new shopping malls and make those
that already exist bigger.
• Start more factories that may produce
more products.
• Start new transport systems.
Apart from the possibility of educating new
generations of citizens in consumption who, with
guidance, will assimilate more easily the new logic
of market behavior. After all, it is much easier to
form an attitude that comes from an existing
opinion than it is to change a predisposition
from negative to positive. The youngest population
sectors are a much more inexperienced audience
which is easier to persuade and much more
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permeable to advertising campaigns and mass
media messages.
When forming consumer societies, weddings
became a totally desirable event for the smooth
running of economies. Marriages meant the
formation of a family that was going to have
children and so they were going to bring future
consumers. In addition, marriages implied not
only great expense for the groom and the bride,
but also for their families and friends. Marriages
became an essential element in economic growth
during the periods of settlement of the consumer
societies. Economic policies made sure that the
cultural rule in favor of marriages was kept.
They also encouraged people to get married
because the sooner people got married, the
earlier they would have children and the better
business would be.
All the above mentioned trends contributed
to the settlement and the development of an
economic model that, even with some peculiarities
in each country, shaped the development of the
western world at every level. It also encouraged
the development of political systems that tended
to converge in the present parliamentary dem-
ocratic formula. It settled a mass media scene led
by the same ways of working and supported by
the same resource: advertising. Advertising has
its foundation in the creative revolution of the
1960s and in the discovery of the importance of
brand image and emotional orientation towards
inherent drama.
Advertising took part in shaping a homoge-
neous culture which laid the foundations of
globalization after the failure of the Eastern
block and communism.
Despite the new challenges we face, and which
we will deal with later, citizens of the 21st
century find the origin of our culture in con-
sumer societies. The era of information and
knowledge is determined by the previous stages
among which the most important is the birth of
modern consumerism.
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