Consumption, the buying of consumer products, has become central to the meaningful practice of our everyday life. People make their consumption choices based not only on a product’s utility value, but from the personal symbolic meanings they invest in objects.
Randomly remembered an article that I read when I was in school and how consumerism shapes people’s identities and how we use goods (they can be objects, places, people, etc) like symbols. The one I’m quoting from is not the article I am thinking about, but it discusses similar topics.
“I’m a BMW kind of guy.” It’s crazy how that simple sentence can evoke so much imagery, identity, and assumptions (this was an example given in the article I was thinking about). If you tell me you’re a BMW kind of guy, I’m going to assume that you’re at least in your mid-30s, was in a fraternity or had affluent parents, wear pants that are a little too short, lived in the suburbs, wear designer cologne, and never change positions during sex (this is purely my opinion). If you own a BMW or you like BMWs, that is completely different. Statements like that make me think that you like brands, the quality associated with established brands, the finer things in life, and you’re either rich or pretending to be. Using the object to describe your identity is what is interesting here.
The products that we buy, the daily routine activities that we do and the philosophies or beliefs that we pursue, tell the world stories about who we are and with whom we identify. (Elliott, 1997: Gabriel & Lang, 1995) This means that we not only consume products to satisfy your own biological instinctual needs, butto carry out an ‘ego project’ of identity formation.
In other words, that elusive trait we find in our ideal objects of choice is something more than the characteristics of that object. The ‘real’ object of consumption that the consumer is attempting to attain, is not only their own ideal identity, but the endless pursuit of the ‘objet petit a’ projected into and perceived in advertisement’s and commercial’s ideal scenes and narratives.