Selling Consumer Culture

Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life..

Advertisers have been influencing consumer culture for a long time.

Before we endeavor to change consumer behavior to encourage people to recycle we need to understand its origins. Colonial Americans were not predisposed to consumerism. They prized the ability to make something from nothing, and coined the term Yankee ingenuity. In order to maintain the manufacturing power that was built to prepare for the first and second world wars, it was necessary to encourage people not to fix old things, but to buy more and more.

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, pioneer in the field of Public Relations, and influential in providing the framework for modern advertising.

Christine Frederick, an early marketing genius steered the course of marketing toward women. In her 1929 book Selling Mrs. Consumer she explores the importance of  encouraging consumerism to keep up with ability of post World War I factories to produce. This gem is available for free download.

Take it on our authority, you need a new refrigerator>

How about a little peer pressure?

The sheer beauty of the American automobile.

If Americans can be taught to take enormous personal and financial risks to buy new homes and cars, then certainly we can learn to conserve and recycle. Achieving a positive impact on the environment by saving energy and natural resources has the power to influence our future quality of life and our collective self esteem. Recycling is the American thing to do!