Philosophy of futility

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Philosophy of futility is a phrase coined in 1928 by Columbia University marketing professor Paul Nystrom to describe an increasingly prevalent outlook which, he believed, induced a greater demand for fashionable products. The growth of industrialization had brought about a narrowing of interests, contacts, and achievements for many people in the Western world. Such conditions of life, Nystrom observed, encourage a tendency to become quickly bored and, consequently, a continual appetite for newness and change and a greater interest in goods in which fashion dominates, such as apparel, automobiles, and home furnishings.

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Paul Nystrom American economist

Paul Henry Nystrom was an American economist, and professor of marketing at Columbia University. He is most known as pioneer in marketing, and for his The Economics of Retailing (1915) and his Economics of Fashion (1928).

Western world Countries that identify themselves with an originally European—since the Cold War, US American—shared culture

The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various nations depending on the context, most often including at least part of Europe, Australasia, and the Americas, with the status of Latin America in dispute. There are many accepted definitions, all closely interrelated. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient, or Eastern world.

The following is a quotation from Nystrom's Economics of Fashion (1928), often cited by historians and analysts of marketing, consumerism, and commercialism: [1]

Consumerism social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the industrial revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to an economic crisis: there was overproduction—the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to manipulate consumer spending. In 1899, a book on consumerism published by Thorstein Veblen, called The Theory of the Leisure Class, examined the widespread values and economic institutions emerging along with the widespread "leisure time" in the beginning of the 20th century. In it Veblen "views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both are related to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness."

Commercialism is the application of both manufacturing and consumption towards personal usage, or the practices, methods, aims, and spirit of free enterprise geared toward generating profit.

One's outlook on life and its purposes may greatly modify one's attitude toward goods in which fashion is prominent. At the present time, not a few people in western nations have departed from old-time standards of religion and philosophy, and having failed to develop forceful views to take their places, hold to something that may be called, for want of a better name, a philosophy of futility. This view of life (or lack of a view of life) involves a question as to the value of motives and purposes of the main human activities. There is ever a tendency to challenge the purpose of life itself. This lack of purpose in life has an effect on consumption similar to that of having a narrow life interest, that is, in concentrating human attention on the more superficial things in which fashion reigns. [2]

Philosophy of Futility and Retail Therapy:

Shopping in order to make oneself feel happier is a symptom that is referred to as “retail therapy” in the popular press. The term was first used in the Chicago Tribune of December 24, 1986: "We've become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy". Retail therapy, sometimes observed in people in times of depression or transition, indicates lack of personal purpose, and involves shopping as a therapeutic act that improves the buyer's mood or disposition; therefore, goods purchased during retail therapy are often referred to as "comfort buys." [3]

Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer's mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or stress, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as "comfort buys".

The “vicious cycle” in Nystrom’s theory can be seen in many economic and philosophical arenas. Robert and Edward Skidelsky, in a father-and-son/economist-and-philosopher writing partnership, discuss that needs are finite and can be satisfied, but wants are infinite in quantity. [4] Adam Smith, a pioneer in political economy, states his Theory of Moral Sentiments that “Riches leave a man always as much and sometimes more exposed than before to anxiety, to fear and to sorrow.”

Adam Smith 18th-century Scottish moral philosopher and political economist

Adam Smith was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment, also known as ''The Father of Economics'' or ''The Father of Capitalism''. Smith wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. In his work, Adam Smith introduced his theory of absolute advantage.

Advertising can manipulate those wants, and make them appear as needs by making consumers feel they are not whole or happy without their product. [5] In his criticism of Christianity, Friedrich Nietzsche said "To act as a physician," he writes, "the priest must make one sick!" For Christianity to appear as the savior, people must first have a problem. Advertising can make their product be the savior of a consumer’s problem.

Friedrich Nietzsche German philosopher

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar whose work has exerted a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. Nietzsche resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life; he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889 at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward, a complete loss of his mental faculties. He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897 and then with his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Nietzsche died in 1900.

Advertising can be particularly influential on children. Between the ages of 2 and 5, children are unable to distinguish between advertising and scheduled television broadcasts. Many countries have banned advertising targeting children to help avoid marketing saturation, and to allow them time to develop an identity beyond that of a consumer. Child advocates have condemned ads from children’s cereals for their lack of nutritional value leading to child obesity to advertising campaigns for action figures based on adult movies or themes. With the average US youth seeing anywhere from 2000-3000 ads a day, the content and intent of those ads has increasingly come under scrutiny. [6]

See also

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Junk food food that has little nutritional value

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Shopping buying goods

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Conspicuous consumption Concept in sociology and economy

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Distribution is one of the four elements of the marketing mix. Distribution is the process of making a product or service available for the consumer or business user who needs it. This can be done directly by the producer or service provider, or using indirect channels with distributors or intermediaries. The other three elements of the marketing mix are product, pricing, and promotion.

Direct marketing type of marketing sending messages directly to consumers

Direct marketing is a form of advertising where organizations communicate directly to customers through a variety of media including cell phone text messaging, email, websites, online adverts, database marketing, fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters, targeted television, newspapers, magazine advertisements, and outdoor advertising. Among practitioners, it is also known as direct response marketing.

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[edit source] Fashion Merchandising can be defined as the planning and promotion of sales by presenting a product to the right market at the proper time, by carrying out organized, skillful advertising, using attractive displays, etc. Merchandising, within fashion retail, refers specifically to the stock planning, management, and control process. Fashion Merchandising is a job that is done world- wide. This position requires well-developed quantitative skills, and natural ability to discover trends, meaning relationships and interrelationships among standard sales and stock figures.[1]In the fashion industry, there are two different merchandising teams: the visual merchandising team, and the fashion merchandising team.

"Pester Power" or "The Nag Factor", as the phenomenon is known in US literature, is the "tendency of children, who are bombarded with marketers' messages, to unrelentingly request advertised items". The phrase is used to describe the negative connotations of children's influence in their parents buying habits.

References

  1. p. 85, Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture, Stuart Ewen, New York: Basic Books, 1976/2001; p. 18, Our Media, Not Theirs, Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002.
  2. p. 68, Paul H. Nystrom, 1928, Economics of Fashion, New York: The Ronald Press Company. Emphasis in original.
  3. Story, Louise, “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad,” The New York Times, January 15, 2007, February 27, 2014. https://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/business/media/15everywhere.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  4. Skidelsky, R., & Skidelsky, How Much Is Enough? Money and the good life. New York: Other Press, 2012.
  5. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Transformers Marketing: Still not Transformed.” http://commercialfreechildhood.org/transformers-marketing-still-not-transformed-after-16-months-mpaa-still-ignores-ftc-staff%E2%80%99s-request. Retrieved February 2014.
  6. Commonsense Media, “Junk Food Ads and Childhood Obesity,” http://www.parentdish.com/2011/02/14/childhood-obesity/. Retrieved February 2014.