Conspicuous Consumption

Through advertising consumers seem to buy expensive and luxurious products just to show their wealth instead of what their real necessities are. This act is called Conspicuous Consumption. People tend to buy products just depending upon high perception of brand image rather than having an item that satisfies the needs of the consumer. “Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption in 1899 to describe spending with the intention of gaining social status” (Ordabayeva and Chandon, 2012).

Image 1 is an advert that portrays a provocative woman used to represent the luxurious car brand ‘Aston Martin.’ The product itself is not shown but since the target audience seem to be male, the brand decided to put a desirable woman in order to attract the public and show what they will be able to possess once they buy the car. This is an example of conspicuous consumption since it is telling the consumer that if they buy the product they will have the one thing that a man desires which is showing wealth through luxurious brands even if it will result in a huge loss of money. What if you do not have the luxury products, would you be nullity? Berger, J developed this point claiming that “‘If you are able to buy this product you will be loveable. If you cannot buy it, you will be less loveable.” (Berger, 1972). Through the act of conspicuous consumption it seems as if it is all a matter of appearing that will result in a battle between the great loss of money by purchasing an Aston Martin but on the other hand the brand image is so powerful that if you buy the product you will be able to obtain the fame that in this case will give you a provocative woman.

Back in the 18th century, what symbolised social status was for example silver, gold and expensive clothes, which still seem to be very admired in our days. Image two in fact is an advert of 1766 which was selling items that were aimed at wealthy families in those times for example horses. The items that were advertised in Image 2 don’t appeal to just one market which is the wealthy class but it also looks at the general public. This is shown clearly when the vendor includes items such as “gloves, blankets, buttons” to give possibility through conspicuous consumption to permit lower classes to be satisfied. This has been done in order to make people feel equal, alleviating what can be called as a “psychological pain.” (Tutle, 2010).

To conclude, conspicuous consumption seems to be a topic for which many individuals are affected by. Adverts influence consumers to enhance equality and invest more that will result in giving them benefit and gain a higher social status. But in the end, “it proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives by buying something more…it will make us in some way richer — even though we will be poorer by having spent our money.” (Berger, 1972)


Image one

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Image two

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Berger, J. (1972). Ways of Seeing. London: BBC and Penguin Books Ltd.

Ordabayeva, N. and Chandon, P. (2012). When Spending Hurts. The European Business Review,  22 July. Available from: [Accessed 5 April 2016].

Tutle, B. (2010). Psych Study: When You’re Bummed, You’re More Likely to Buy. Time, 7 May. Available from: [Accessed 5 April 2016].