Tag Archive 'Reflection Blog'

Feb 06 2012

Target and Sears & Roebuck. Oh my! – Reflections on Strasser II

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As I read Strasser this weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the fun I had helping my youngest son complete his first grade Economics homework. He had to make a “wants” and “needs” poster, so we went to Wal*Mart and took a whole bunch of pictures of him with a variety of different items like, food, clothing, a big boom box, giant fancy shades, big jewelry….you get the picture. In this history of the development of American Consumerism in the 20th century, Strasser examines how companies intentionally blurred those lines to boost sales. She explores the advertising phenomenon of “branding”, where companies strive to make their product the one whose identity you recall when you think of a particular commodity. Some examples of the most successful efforts branding involve a shift where the product’s name becomes synonymous with the identity of the commodity, like Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Band-Aids, and Kleenex. She takes a close look at the world of advertising and the different promotional tactics that various companies employ, like coupons. It was interesting reading and I am eager to see where our class discussion leads.

– Sara G.

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Feb 06 2012

Satisfaction Guaranteed, Part II

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The second half of Satisfaction Guaranteed examines new techniques used for selling products, such as premiums, coupons, samples, and contests.  Companies would spend a lot of money on conventions and prizes with the hope that their products success would financially make up for it in the future.  There was initially discrepancy between the advertisers and the salesmen, which I thought was interesting since their jobs are so interdependent.  There was also hostility the between the companies and the retailers, despite companies attempts to develop relationships with the retailers.  I found it funny that the companies methods, providing retailers with displays and advertising, were frequently thrown out by store owners.  With the expansion of department stores, mail-order and chains, some community business leaders fought against big business.  Their complaints and struggles are still ongoing today.  Small businesses of the time were unsuccessful and forced to adapt to their customer’s desires or sell.  There was yet another battle between manufactures and mass retailers, which the manufactures also seem to have won.

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Jan 30 2012

A New Look at First Grade Economics – Reflections on Strasser

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As I read Strasser this weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the fun I had helping my youngest son complete his first grade Economics homework. He had to make a “wants” and “needs” poster, so we went to Wal*Mart and took a whole bunch of pictures of him with a variety of different items like, food, clothing, a big boom box, giant fancy shades, big jewelry….you get the picture. In this history of the development of American Consumerism in the 20th century, Strasser examines how companies intentionally blurred those lines to boost sales. She explores the advertising phenomenon of “branding”, where companies strive to make their product the one whose identity you recall when you think of a particular commodity. Some examples of the most successful efforts branding involve a shift where the product’s name becomes synonymous with the identity of the commodity, like Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Band-Aids, and Kleenex. She takes a close look at the world of advertising and the different promotional tactics that various companies employ, like coupons. It was interesting reading and I am eager to see where our class discussion leads.

-Sara G.

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Jan 30 2012

Satisfaction Guaranteed

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In the first half of Satisfaction Guaranteed the author answered a lot of questions I didn’t know I had. Included were: why Mom and Pop shops are called ‘mom and pop shops,’ why consumers (including myself) think they need things like ipods, when they didn’t even exist until ten years ago, and how companies like Nabisco and Coca Cola beat out the competition. The idea that when a company creates a product they don’t always do it to fill a need, but (more) often to make a profit in any way, is nothing new to me, but I had never thought about the way they build the consumer’s “need” for a given product before. In this book, it is explained how products are marketed and branded, and how they go from something no one’s ever heard of to something people think they need. Though a lot of the examples in the book are from a century ago, I am reminded of technology in recent years. We, as consumers, are always looking for the next new thing and we are ready to gobble it up at any cost. Why else would we buy cell phones, tablets, and mp3 players for hundreds of dollars?

As for the third question I never knew I had until I read this book, I found it interesting that other companies tried to almost directly copy Nabisco and Coca Cola packaging. True, companies do this today but not in such an explicit way. Everyone still knows the difference between the ‘name brand’ and the ‘off brand.’ The fact that over 800 companies were threatened with legal action for copying Nabisco’s packaging is astonishing. When they market for such items was brand new, you would think people would have been a little more creative in coming up with their own design!

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Jan 29 2012

Satisfaction Guaranteed, Part I

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In the first half of Satisfaction Guarateed, Susan Strasser goes through the process of how brands and marketing were first developed in the United States.  It was possible for companies to do so because of new technologies that allowed for mass-producing and transportation, thus expanding their potential markets.  The companies had a difficult task of creating a demand for their new products on the market.  To do so, they had to advertise and build relationships with retailers so that they would sell the products in order to convince Americans that their product was necessary.  Even though companies acted simply in order to sell their goods, they ended up creating a new consumer culture by changing American’s habits and their economic system.

I found the idea of simply going into the store and asking for what you want with no options strange because I am used to brands and variety.  I can only imagine how some Americans then reacted to the change!  Additionally, I found the large variety in the focus of advertising (showing off factories, magical aspects, traditional wisdom) curious and thought it highlighted American’s different responses to the changes.  I was intrigued on why certain companies were successful and others were not, even if they employed a good marketing campaign.

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Jan 29 2012

Satisfaction Guaranteed

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In the first part of Susan Strasser’s Satisfaction Guaranteed, she examines how products have changed from something primitive to an enormous competitive market where consumers are bought buy advertisement. Strasser mentions when products were once simple, were consumers knew where their foods and basic necessities were coming from. Now, consumers are blinded by advertisement from corporations in competition for wealth. Consumers now a days generally buy what they see on TV and in the paper, “name brands”. They refuse to consume any other brand because they’re fooled into the continuous advertising of a single brand, that they don’t trust what others have to offer. I find myself doing this as well. I love Barbeque sauce, and when i go out to buy some i also stick with my loyal favorite, Kraft. When i know perfectly well that any other brand would probably satisfy me the same, i still won’t buy them. Advertisement and competition is a part of the “American way” and i believe consumers won’t change the way they shop as long as these two factors are thriving.

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Jan 27 2012

Praying to the gods of Capitalism – Reflections on Fiske

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When I started reading the first few pages of Fiske, I was looking for a picture of myself in a text box, because many of the things he was writing reminded me so much of the way I personally use a mall. I am exactly a mall’s worst nightmare, especially in today’s market. The endless variety of online shopping options has seriously curtailed the likelihood of my ever actually buying something from a store in a mall! Malls do serve a purpose – I can go there to see and touch, and sometimes try on things that I’m going to buy cheaper on line. Plus, the mall always has the best pretzels and sometimes, the movie theater, too. I thought Fiske’s discussion of typical masuculine/feminine expectations (p. 313) was spot on.  Even as women’s roles in the home and the workplace have evolved, the preponderance of consumer responsibilities still falls to Mom. I also thought that his discussion of department stores/malls as public places was interesting, but I’ll hold off further comment on that for now. I suspect we’ll discuss this more in later units – perhaps the Downtown America unit. Finally, I thought his points on consumption and power were interesting. I’d never really evaluated many of the scenarios he mentioned before and looked at them in the light of “me, exercising power”, but isn’t that exactly what a DVR is? This section was quite enlightening. Fiske was definitely the best read this week.

– Sara

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Jan 27 2012

Mall Consumersim

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When Fiske describes that malls have become not just centers of mass consumerism, he also reveals that the serve as centers for social interaction. In part because of the iconography associated with offering an interactive melting pot of several advertised commodities and the sensation consumers receive when attaining a certain product or various products in a “one stop shop” sort of destination. Consumers are able to interact with various merchants and fellow shoppers and are exposed to several different styles of business and marketing strategies. Patrons of the mall usually shop there because of the people and the availability of certain commodities that would otherwise not be common to come across without a high volume sales destination. This what i believe Fiske is describing when he mentions shopping malls being the Cathedrals of consumption; due to their various but effective strategies to draw mass consumption.

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Jan 26 2012

Fiske, “Shopping for Pleasure”

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At first, I thought it weakened his argument to begin his comparison of shopping and religion with hesitancy, however I could see how he was doing so to justify  it and answer those who might disagree with it before going into how it is true.  Fiske uses the metaphor to explain the power of consumerism.  Shopping malls are economically discriminating, yet open to influence all.  This power holds not only over the specific goods, but the space as well.  I had never really thought of the impact of the space before, especially it’s impact on window shopping, but thought it was too true.

Friske then spends a fair amount of the article talking about women.  Women are the target of shopping’s advertising, as they do the majority of shopping.  Advertisements appeal to women by arguing that the shopping mall empowers women.  While it may do so in allowing women to have choices and be able to spend money, shopping  in fact can trap women with its power.

People can choose what they buy.  Their choices speak to their identities, or at least how they want others to perceive them.  This expression provides them with a sense of individuality and of power.  Still, clothing choices are social and vary based on the person’s class, age, or culture.

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Jan 26 2012

Shopping For Pleasure

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This reading by Fiske begins by defining consumerism as a religion. I believe consumerism is way out of religion’s ballgame, from what he describes. The American market is far too powerful to compare. As Fiske states, in religion, the congregation is “forced to ‘buy’ the truth on offer, all the truth, not selective bits of it.” In the Market, 90% of new products fail. A religion couldn’t survive if the followers only bought 10% of it’s ideals, but the capitalist market thrives.

As quoted in the text, “Women Shop.” This is certainly true. It follows in the reading that earning is typically masculine and spending is typically feminine. I disagree with this statement for most of the American population. It’s possible that the upper / upper middle class families may operate this way, where the patriarch makes the money and the wife and kids spend it, but it’s certainly not this way for most middle class families where both parents work and therefore both parents spend money, or single parent households where the mother earns all income for her family. We all know women love to shop, but I’m offended by the notion that women will develop tricky ways to spend her husband’s money! (Not to mention the households where mom works and dad stays home.)

Something that hit home for me in this reading is the idea that slogans are commodities. They are not contributing to the economy financially, but are “texts in the cultural economy.” I never considered how slogans, logos, and other basic propaganda put out by companies encouraging us to spend money are actually SOLD to the public, and we BUY it every time. (Well, 10% of the time.)

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