Identity With a Price Tag

This is an excerpt from an article I found on I enjoyed it so much I’m posting it here for you to read. What do you think?

The over-riding narrative of consumerism is: “You are what you consume.” Identity is based on what a teen can purchase and put on display. The result is that adolescent identity tends to be formed externally rather than generated internally.One strategy marketers use is “identity branding.” This is an explicit effort to get teens to identify themselves with a particular product or corporate brand. The craze around Apple’s iPod is an example of this identity branding.  The iPod has changed the face of the music industry.  As a part of iPod’s early, and vastly successful ad campaign, the website’s homepage contained a neon-colored image screaming for your attention. The image was the now-familiar dark silhouette of a trendy young person passionately dancing to the music playing on the white iPod linked by earphones to his ear. The caption read, “Which iPod are you?” Notice the question wasn’t “Which iPod do you prefer?” or “Which iPod suits your lifestyle?” It was an overt attempt to blend product and identity in hopes that teens would fuse their own identity with their product. With millions of consumers gobbling up iPod and iTunes products every year, the strategy of mixing identity and brand must be working.But consumerism doesn’t stop there. It also engages in a marketing strategy we could call “caricaturing.” In an effort to sell their products more efficiently, corporate advertisers go so far as to design a form of adolescent identity for teens to readily adopt.Extensive research and vast of marketing dollars have generated teen-targeted, media-created caricatures. One example is the “Mook.” He is the crude, loud, obnoxious, in-your-face male: a teen frozen in permanent adolescence. Mooks can be found everywhere. They’re the daredevils on “Jackass.” They star in MTV’s Spring Break specials.  Mooks continue to be spun out as key characters in new television shows every season. You don’t have to look very hard.But there’s no real Mook. It’s a market creation designed to take advantage of the testosterone-driven craziness of male adolescence. Teenage males identify with it and “buy into” it. All that needs to be done is associate merchandise with the Mook caricature and you have Mooks gobbling up those products.Along with the Mook, the media machine has also produced a female caricature. The “Midriff”-no more true to life than the Mook-is the sexually empowered, prematurely adult female. The Mook doesn’t care what people think of him, but the Midriff is consumed by appearances. The Midriff is a repackaged collection of sexual clichés, but marketed as a form of empowerment. Your body is your best asset. Flaunt your sexuality even if you don’t understand it.2 Celebutantes Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears seem to embody the essence of the Midriff. The marketing strategy is similar to that of the Mook: project the caricature to teens and they will embrace and begin to personify them. All you need to do is infuse a brand or product into a pre-designed teen market.”