With a transition from Fordism, characterized by mass production and industrial labor, to post-Fordism, in which technical advancements introduced machines that could replace the assembly line labor system, our society underwent several changes. The new production system required workers to be flexible, which made consumption also flexible, as people sought to have more complex skills and individual qualities to attain such flexibility through consumption practices that are now no longer limited to material goods.

In the discussion of this consumer culture, Anthony references Lury and states in his post, “We try to use the aesthetics and power held within consuming to produce an idealized world, one in which all the products serve to better ourselves.” This idea that consuming goods enable us to “better ourselves” provides an explanation to some marketing strategies that institutions take on.

Recently, I received an email from Sephora titled, “A beauty pop quiz!” which contained the following image:

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This “quiz” does not directly match up a product with a problem, as it is more exactly an “ingredient quiz” that highlights a particular ingredient in a product that helps carry out a specific function. However, by labeling this trivia a “beauty quiz,” and with the use of words like “bestselling” and “imperfections,” Sephora suggests that these are facts that we should be concerned about in order to improve our “imperfections,” and that we probably should purchase these products because they are “bestselling.” Lury mentions in her book that “marketing efforts are not designed to control consumption directly but are attempts to ‘grow’ the life-worlds of consumers by fostering the conditions in which consuming subjectivities and activities emerge.” (102). By providing ingredient information in a form of a quiz, Sephora seems to create an ideal world of “beauty” that a consumer can be part of through consuming these products that “brighten,” “revive,” and “refine” skin complexions.

While we come to believe products provide the solutions to whatever problems we face, it is important to also note that shopping itself is an activity that enables consumers to leap into the ideal life-worlds. Anthony also states that “the process, hunt, and experience of shopping serves as an almost therapeutic escape and resolution to our problems,” as he looks into the culture of supermarket sweep and black friday shopping. Today, we see that this process of shopping has expanded into the virtual space as well, as we now can shop through multiple forms of media, such as phone, mobile phone, and the internet.

Continuing with the examination of the Sephora brand, Sephora has an online web page that enables the consumers to browse through their products and to purchase them with a simple click, like any other online shopping sites, but there is more to the Sephora website: Sephora gives personal suggestions (recommended product) to the users according to the questionnaire that they fill out. The comment sections on each product page and the ADVICE page allows the users to write reviews and have conversations about trend and other beauty tips.

These additional functions make the users “prosumers,” who does not simply consume, but also produce “informational and cultural content of commodities” from participating in “immaterial labour” (Lury, 104). The Sephora page acts as the ideal world of beauty, in which users can achieve beauty through participation. In this website, each user is ranked according to the amount of contribution they make in the beauty forum or the amount of money spent in Sephora online/offline stores; the user’s value and credibility is produced from consumption as well.

Sites dedicated to shopping now seem to be more than just a store full of products to be bought. Just as Sephora is a world of beauty that hosts a community of people who foster beauty through consumption, each site of consumption seems to represent an ideal world in which people produce values on themselves and the products that they consume to produce that value.

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