Human beings have always forged their self-identities from the way that their tribe or community produces and exchanges goods. In industrial societies, people derived their sense of self-identity from their relationship to industrial labour and the social class system that was built upon it. With the rise of post-industrial societies at the end of the twentieth century, the economic system changed, and our way of creating ourselves changed too. Today, people forge their sense of self-identity and personal well-being from the products that they buy and consume. ‘I shop therefore I am’ is the mantra of twenty-first century consumer culture.
Shopping, today, is more than just a way of life. Shopping has become a means of self-creation. The discerning consumer knows that what’s important is not simply that you buy, it’s what you buy. We define ourselves with brands that reflect our personal lifestyle choices: Apple, Virgin, G-Star, Harley Davidson, etc. We kit ourselves out in tribal colours: Gucci, Converse, Adidas, Paul Smith, Yves Saint Laurent. Products are how post-industrial consumers express their personal style and identity. Products are how we tell the world who we are, or aspire to be, at least.
Studies show that brand consciousness is increasingly driving the way that people purchase and consume in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere in the developing world. This reflects a culture shift from traditionally-oriented collectivist societies to capitalist societies based in the values of self-actualization and individual expression. A similar shift took place in Western societies in the nineteen sixties at the twilight of the industrial age. The sixties countercultural revolutionaries rejected the mass-market society of their parents’ generation for a new ethos of individual self-expression. From the beats to the hippies, young people insisted on their right to determine their own identities and to freely decide their styles of life. [Read more...]