A Long, long time ago, nearly everyone, except perhaps St. Francis of Assisi, wanted to look rich or at least well connected. So an ambitious guy like Sir Walter Raleigh was rather comfortable looking like this back in the 16th century
He knew that the lace et al were important to cast the right image. Fast forwarding to the 18th century, Beau Brummel changed that. After he came along, looking rich meant wearing stuff like this
The style had indeed radically changed — out went the lace and the make up — but the motivation for style did not. It was still to show that you were connected to wealth and power.
This was before the 1960’s blew up quite a bit of that. Then nearly everyone wanted to look cool or hip or at least with it. Looking rich was less fashionable than looking like you were having a good time. Something like this
Or perhaps even like this
Or like this
At first blush, the above looks seem radically different from the “make me look rich” fashions from before. But both of the above deep rooted desires (looking rich and looking with it) gave birth to marketing strategies that sold a hell of a lot of stuff. That stuff signaled belonging to a certain segment of society – your social status. And these strategies — linking purchases to social status — still work. Err … to a certain extent.
I say to a certain extent because I see less of a desire these days to look rich or cool. These both seem just a bit vieux chapeu. Keep in mind, that we are way beyond punk fashion by now.
Is there a new sort of deep desire that will supplant the desire to look rich or cool or even punk? That is a very good question and an important one for folks who want to sell stuff. BTW, as Dan Pink points out, we all want to sell something these days.
One gets an inkling of the answer from what motivates people these days. For example travel. Lots of young folks are wandering around the planet looking for great experiences. Not because they think it makes them look rich or with it. But because of something else. Something deeper than just manifesting their social status. You might even think of the allure of wandering as an assertion that something is more important than social status. Like what? Again, good question. It may be a bit too early to put a word to it.
It could be that we are embracing a different sense of empowerment. A new sense of what makes for finding a meaningful life. And that may have to do with — drum roll please — how smart we are. How well we can play with ideas and bring them into reality. It could be, therefore, that the key to selling stuffthese days is to make the buyer looks smart. Not rich. Not with it. But smarter than the folks around him or her.
As I think of it, that may have been the core realization that Steve Jobs had about marketing. People will pay a lot for a toy that we call a computer or an Ipad or Iphone because it makes them look smart. It makes them feel good about having that status — not a social status so much, but an individual status.
At least this is what Audi thinks. Check out their new ad. It rocks!