One of the topics that has always caught my attention is consumer behavior. I studied it while at University and on exchange in Asia. My real interest in it rose in my late twenties and since I’ve been traveling and living abroad.
We start to build our social acceptance already in kindergarten. I had my guinea pig/hamster as a teddy bear and oh yes it caught the attention of my childhood friends because it wasn’t a normal boring teddy bear. It was a guinea pig. It had a zipper, and I remember one could hide cookies in it and eat them secretly when no one was watching. My guinea pig had some rough times especially when I didn’t want to eat my morning porridge, and I hid those morning bites in its stomach.
When I was in middle school, I wanted a Finnish design bag ”the Marimekko bag” as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately Santa didn’t bring me that one and instead I got some other brandless bag. It was the worst Christmas ever, and I remember even today how disappointed I was. Even though that bag was probably as nicely made, it wasn’t used because it wasn’t the ”it bag ” at that time.
When I grew older and went to university, I had a MacBook. I remember that some of the students had PCs, but at the end of the first year classrooms were filled with either white or silver laptops with Apple badges. It is not necessarily that these machines would work better, but they did support our acceptance in the environment where we were. If I can be honest, my PhotoShop doesn’t run as smoothly in my MacBook Pro (yes I’ve upgraded), than in my PC. But of course I have to have a MacBook Pro– the ”it machine” of my generation.
While I was studying, I was also working through my blog and also in interior store. I didn’t have so much spare time because I was studying during the days, blogging in the evenings, and working in the store during the weekends. Why I was working so much? To keep up my social status and building my personal brand by buying design chairs and other objects. I could have been a normal student and be more with friends, but I decided differently. This kind of behavior still follows me even now in the adult age. I want to have certain things, not necessarily that I need them, but I like to have beautiful objects next to me.
I think there are two very distinctive personality types, one who desires nice experiences and another who I would call pragmatic. As an example, to a pragmatic personality a towel is just for the purpose of drying yourself after shower, for myself, who I consider an experience type of personality, a silky and pretty towel is an object that makes me feel good. It has a deeper meaning than just to dry my skin.
Personality types follow us everywhere. The choices we make as consumers day to day build our personal brands and give us a sense of belonging. I feel I belong in certain consumer category when I buy the artisan bread or think my next vacation destination.
I’ve read a lot of sociology (I was initially studying sociology) and the differences in consumer behaviors are deep down in to our roots. I’m fighting a lot with myself because I’m Finnish, and it is not socially acceptable in Finnish society to crave expensive shoes. The only socially acceptable expensive things one should buy are home, car and summer cottage. To me, the car is not the object I would like to put money on. We don’t have a car, and we put our car allowances into plane tickets instead. First of all, what does a person do with a car in Paris anyway? Secondly, the price drops immediately when you drive it out of the lot. So we use the metro, an electric car service subscription, and Über.
I think I’ve taken my personality type from home. Of course my friends influence it as well, but what makes the big difference is that the availability of goods is totally different now than twenty years back. I’m sure some middle school girl is craving for a Louis Vuitton or Céline bag, and it can be as disappointing Christmas to her as it was to me when I didn’t get my Marimekko bag. Today, my cravings are different, and I don’t necessarily need to wait somebody to buy those gifts to me. I think that is the biggest gift I can ever have. So little girl, study and work.