Really this was more of a 2.5 for me, but since I read it pretty quickly I decided to bump it up to a 3 rather than down to a 2 -- it obviously kept m...moreReally this was more of a 2.5 for me, but since I read it pretty quickly I decided to bump it up to a 3 rather than down to a 2 -- it obviously kept my attention.
It's interesting to read this book -- published in 2003 -- now. A scant seven years later, many of Quart's worries seem downright prosaic. Taking it as what it is though, some of her analysis is rather prescient -- she foretells the memoir craze and the rise of Super Sweet Sixteens pretty accurately. You have to think she could expand this now with a second volume looking at the rise of both web-based marketing ("friending" brands on Facebook and Twitter) and self-marketing ("street style" websites, MySpace, really anything teens do online). Or just reality TV -- I mean sheesh, from American Idol to Laguna Beach and its myriad offspring, the teensploitation doesn't stop.
In any event, as a chronicle of marketers' love affair with teens and tweens (and in many cases, their reciprocity) at the dawn of the twenty-first century, this book isn't too bad. There are many times when Quart gets a bit repetitive and predictable, often when she comes down too hard on the side of kids not knowing what's best for them. Yes, there are limits to kids' savvy when it comes to understanding advertisements, or the consequences of their own actions; at the same time however, part of growing up is making mistakes and learning from them, and there are very real limits to how much we can "protect" kids and teens. My biggest issue with this book though was my goodness did it need a better copy editor -- it was so unbelievably rife with copy errors (e.g. missing words, extra words) you'd think Alloy had put it out.(less)
I challenge you to read this book and not want to smack the author upside the head with it. A self-styled (read: non-degreed) marketing consultant, Li...moreI challenge you to read this book and not want to smack the author upside the head with it. A self-styled (read: non-degreed) marketing consultant, Lindstrom reveals himself to be an unapologetic biological determinist, attempting to convince his reader that with the advent of "neuro-marketing" a new age dawns where qualitative and quantitative methods (such as focus groups and surveys) are no longer of any use to marketers. Why? Because, as he asserts repeatedly, "the brain doesn't lie." That said, these neurological "truths" are really just a bunch of neurons firing beneath an MRI machine -- Lindstrom and his colleagues must interpret what they "really mean", thus calling into question the objectivity of the various "truths" he purports to uncover.
While a few of his theories are interesting, his uncritical acceptance of his results leads his reader to question them. Not once does he consider an alternate explanation for why we buy, even though often his assertions appear flat out wrong. Lindstrom often bases his hypotheses around people's lack of engagement with the external world, making blase assertions that he doesn't know why he buys Diesel jeans or an iPod, doesn't remember what he ate for breakfast, doesn't remember where he was last week, etc. With every sentence, one says to one's self, "Really?" I'm thoroughly unconvinced that it's merely a soup of instincts and experience that led me to choose an iPod over a Zune. Instead, this would be one of many, many examples where I had a conscious thought process that I can easily relate to you here: Microsoft hasn't had an original idea since Windows, and their clunky copycat offers neither the ease of use nor the lovely aesthetics of the Apple, while adding features I find utterly useless.
According to Lindstrom, that kind of choice takes place only unconsciously, as in his world I choose Jif peanut butter because my subconscious remembers that "choosy moms" choose it. Listen buddy, this is the real world, not an advertiser's fantasy: I'm going to choose the generic store brand, because it's least expensive. And yes, I'm going to think about my choice consciously while I do it, and spend more than a fraction of a second doing so. Hope your high-priced, name-brand clients enjoy your advice!(less)
Read this book, and you'll never shop at IKEA again. Never. Ruppel Shell does a truly masterful job of dissecting both the historical underpinnings an...moreRead this book, and you'll never shop at IKEA again. Never. Ruppel Shell does a truly masterful job of dissecting both the historical underpinnings and the current intricacies of what she calls "Cheap" culture, connecting Americans' penchant for low prices to the disappearance of the middle class, among other things. While this book will certainly disappoint deregulation enthusiasts, the author does a good job of considering the different arguments and counter-arguments in reaching her conclusions.
My one wish for this book was for it to have more practical advice. With cheap goods exacting a high price in other areas, and mass-produced expensive goods artificially price-inflated and generally little better in terms of human rights or the environment, where is one to turn? While this is the author's point, it makes for especially depressing reading (especially for someone of already limited means in the current economic climate). Nonetheless, a bit more on where one can turn -- for example, Ruppel Shell singles out Costco as one chain whose plusses surprisingly outweigh its minuses -- would be useful.
CLW hits it out of the park with this one -- this book was fantastic. I would particularly recommend it instead of the Juliet Schor books I recently r...moreCLW hits it out of the park with this one -- this book was fantastic. I would particularly recommend it instead of the Juliet Schor books I recently reviewed. CLW takes a much more nuanced approach, looking not at whether consumption is good or evil, but instead examining how relationships of race, class, and gender are played out in the employment practices, store policies, and customer interactions via ethnographic work in two different toy store chains. Her detailed observation as well as her even-handed reviews of the relevant literature make this a pleasant and thought-provoking read, as you actually get to think through the issues as you go rather than have them shoved down your gullet as in the Schor books. I would highly recommend this book to people studying a variety of areas, including race, gender, labor, and consumption. (less)
On rereading this book I had to downgrade it from a four-star review to a three. Schor's argument in this book is extremely persuasive, but on close i...moreOn rereading this book I had to downgrade it from a four-star review to a three. Schor's argument in this book is extremely persuasive, but on close inspection, it's pretty easy -- a little too easy considering she's at Harvard -- to poke some pretty big holes in it.
Schor details the way that Americans have become mired in debt and saddled with things they don't need via upscaling, competitive consumption, and misused credit cards. Yes, this all makes sense, and yes, she is prescient about the current credit crisis.
That said, most of Schor's argument is predicated on people being idiots. She doesn't actually say this at any point, but Schor clearly believes that you can differentiate between "real" and "fake" needs. Based on her description of "downshifters" (her way out of this mess and essentially, people who via an unclear-at-best mechnanism have thrown off the shroud of false consciousness), it seems that the distinction she makes between "real" and "fake" needs is extremely tied up in elitist and arguably classist ideals. Likewise, as almost all consumption is "unnecessary" in her view, Schor denies any potential pleasures or even political value to consumer activity. (For someone who makes the latter argument reasonably well, see Mica Nava's work.)
There are likewise frequent problems with her argumentation and with the specific evidence she cites. (For example, she expresses shock that a majority of people named material goods in response to a question that read something like, "What do you hope to own or do in your life?" Wording the study question with "to own" front and center I would think makes that finding completely not surprising.) All in all, I would say that while this book is thought-provoking and a worthwhile read, it should still be read with a critical eye. It is easy to get completely on board with the argument and ignore the numerous things about it that are somewhat problematic. (less)
This book I had wanted to read since it came out, and it was great. Humorously, not long after I read it, I saw that it was for sale at the Kitson war...moreThis book I had wanted to read since it came out, and it was great. Humorously, not long after I read it, I saw that it was for sale at the Kitson warehouse sale, alongside marked down Habitual jeans and Michael Kors wedge sandals in an unheated, hangar-like space (where no, I didn't buy anything -- though I did score at the similar Lisa Kline sale). On this same trip, I also saw the (awesome) Takashi Murakami retrospective that notoriously included a Louis Vuitton boutique in the middle of the exhibition -- which definitely makes you think (about dropping a grand for a somewhat ugly bag, but also about you know, the relationship between art and commerce!). Anyway, this book was quite well done. It combines the narrative about different aspects of the luxury goods trade with detailed histories of different houses, and in general is very compelling. After reading the chapter about counterfeiting, you would never, ever want to buy a counterfeit handbag (and not just 'cause you're fooling yourself that you think people can't tell the difference -- trust me, we can, and that thing looks like crap).
On the flip side, you may come out of it really wanting to buy an Hermes bag. The interesting thing is that the author in no way dislikes luxury goods -- this isn't a Juliet B. Schor or James Twitchell kind of academia-lite read, the author is a fashion journalist. She kind of loves snobby stuff, and revels in anecdotes about like, how good the service at Christian Dior used to be like twenty years ago before they re-did the store. Rather than a diatribe against the massification of luxury and its consequences for the masses (debt, "affluenza", etc. -- though there's a bit of that in there, especially in the chapter where she goes to Vegas), it is more about how these things have lost their specialness for the very wealthy (although really for anyone who buys them). So it is sort of weird. The book ends up at that ridiculous store in Brazil, Daslu, and her talking about it like it's an uneqivocally good thing, which came off sort of weird for me. But in any event, the book is quite entertaining, and you learn a lot of stuff -- plus aside from okaying Hermes and Chanel, it really does take the air out of a lot of one's other handbag ambitions.(less)
Another day, another Schor re-read as part of a project I'm working on. Though this book contains more efforts at quantitatively legitimating her argu...moreAnother day, another Schor re-read as part of a project I'm working on. Though this book contains more efforts at quantitatively legitimating her arguments than any of her other main works, I would still argue that this one is the least effective of the three. Why? Unlike her other two popular/scholarly books focusing on similar issues (The Overworked American and The Overspent American), the focus on kids actually leads to a weaker argument. In this book she does make more of an effort to address counter arguments to her points, yet in her zealousness at sticking with her main points, Schor is sometimes reminiscent of short-lived American Idol contestant Juanita Barber's rendition of "What About the Children?" At some point, it almost becomes laughable... but in the end it's just more of a grind.
I will say again that I appreciated that in this book, even while sticking with a popular audience, Schor did bust some social science moves and try to explain causality versus causation, necessary and sufficient explanations, and so on. At the same time however, I felt like I needed more than just the obvious marketers-say-the-darnedest-things to really be convinced of her argument.(less)