Consumerism and culture

Consumerism: The growing consumption of goods.

Consumer culture: The link between personal consumption and material possessions and that of personal happiness.

Mass media: Sections of the media that are designed to reach a mass audience. Satellite TV and the internet has allowed mass media to grow.

Brand: A distinguishing name or logo of a product.

Need: Something that you need to remain healthy e.g. food, water, clothes, shelter, etc.

Want: Something that you desire, but do need for your survival. Peoples perceptions of needs and wants have changed. Many people would now say that their mobile phone is a need, but in reality it is just a want. Wants are sometimes referred to as luxuries e.g. TV, car, mobile phone, holidays.


Advertising: The act of promoting a product or service.

The growth of mass media, aided by improvements in communication and technology has allowed TNCs to reach new markets and further consumerism. Technology has meant that TNCs advertise in a growing variety of ways and a growing variety of places, including:
  • Cinema
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Magazines and newspapers
  • Internet (included targeted adverts through mediums like Google, Hotmail and Facebook). Companies are able to target adverts by looking at things like your internet search history, location and credit card transactions.
  • E-mail (spam)
  • Cold calling (sales phoning your mobile or house phone)
  • Product placement (products being used in films or TV e.g. an actor using a Blackberry in a film - TNCs will pay for this to happen). Product placement might be regarded as subliminal, because people are not aware that products are being advertised or promoted.
  • Stadiums, arenas (adverts and branding) e.g. Emirates Stadium
  • Billboards
  • Product giveaways in the street

Advertising is now a multi-billion dollar industry, with current expenditure close to $300 billion (over 1% of global GDP). Through advertising and product placement certain brands have become associated with certain aspects of culture e.g. Adidas became linked with hip-hop culture.

Because advertising has become more targeted and it can encourage the consumption of harmful products, some attempts have been made to control advertising. In the UK controls have included:
  • Banning cigarette advertising
  • Restricting alcohol advertising
  • Restricting the advertising of products aimed at children
  • Having an advertising standards agency to ensure all claims made in adverts are genuine.
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Junk food ad crackdown announced - BBC article
Tobacco displays to be banned from shops - BBC article
Calls to limit child exposure to alcohol ads - BBC article
Advertising not only sells products, but can also promote brand image and create brand loyalty. Brand image (or identity) is important because it can increase companies market share, it can allow them to charge higher prices and can allow them to release new products more easily. Below is a list of the World's 20 most important brands.
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McDonald's is the World's largest hamburger chain. It has over 33,000 restaurants in 119 countries and serves an estimated 68 million customers daily. McDonald's started as a barbeque restaurant in 1940 in California. The company was started by Maurice and Richard McDonald. In 1955 Ray Kroc but the operation of the McDonald brothers. McDonald's now employs over 1.7 million people and has revenue in excess of $24 billion. McDonald's became a listed company in 1965 and the "Big Mac'' first appeared three years later in 1968. McDonald's first oversea restaurant opened in Canada in 1967, the second country it opened in was Costa Rica in 1970. The UK did not get a restaurant until 1974.

McDonald's restaurants are operated as either a franchise, an affiliate or directly by the corporation. About 15% of all restaurants are owned directly by the corporation, while the rest operate as franchises or part franchises (affiliates). Franchises pay the McDonald's Corporation franchise fees, marketing fees and rent - normally all based on profits.

To increase its market share, McDonald's has developed its restaurants in an number of different ways. McDonald's first drive "thru'' was opened in 1975. To compete with the growth of coffee shops McDonald's launched McCafe in 1993. McDonald's has also opened restaurants with playgrounds for children and McExpress's and McStop's which are aimed at customers on the move with limited time. McDonald's has also adapted it restaurants to suit local tastes (glocalisation) e.g. halal meat in the Middle East or kosher meat in Israel and no beef in India.
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Coca Cola

Coca Cola is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and is the World's largest soft drinks company. It now sells products in over 200 countries and its range has increased (over 3,500 different beverages) to include products like Sprite, Fanta, Inka Cola and water like Joy. Coca Cola now has over 146,000 employees worldwide.

Coca-Cola started in 1886 when it was sold for 5 cents a glass from a soda fountain in ''Jacob's Pharmacy". Asa Candler then developed Coca-Cola from a product into a business. He promoted Coca-Cola through aggressive marketing, like giving out free tastes. Joseph Biedenharn was the first person to bottle Coca Cola in 1894. However, Asa Candler didn't see the importance of bottling and sold the bottling rights for just $1 to two lawyers (Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead) in 1899. At the turn of the century Coca-Cola launched its now famous contour bottle and started selling in other countries like Cuba, Panama, France and Canada.

In 1919 the company was bought off Asa Candler by Ernest Woodruff. Woodruff''s son Robert was a very clever marketer and introduced Coca Cola to the Olympics in 1928. Post WWII Coca Cola grew even more expanding into over 120 countries. In the 1960's new products like Sprite were launched along with the first can. To this day Coca-Cola continues to expand its products range (through acquisition and development). It also increased its marketing through international sporting events and teams.

Coca-Cola profits boosted by international sales - BBC article
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Adbusters was started by Kalle Lasn and Bill Schmalz in Vancouver in 1989. It is a non-profit, non-government organisation. Adbusters is often associated with anti-capitalism. Its mission is to: "diffuse the fog of mental pollution and change the way information flows. Through philosophical thrusts and tactical briefings, we hope Adbusters gives you an epiphany and is the start of your permanent occupation." One of its early campaigns involved subvertising. Subverts aimed to highlight the environmental, cultural and social (including health) damage caused by many leading brands.

Subvertising: The alteration of an existing image or advert to highlight and alternative message.

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