What is Consumerism

Consumerism is the theory that a country that consumes goods and services in large quantities will be better off economically.
Sometimes, consumerism is referred to as a policy that promotes greed.

BREAKING DOWN Consumerism

Consumerism is also credited with a movement towards consumer protection that promotes improvement in safety standards and truthful packaging and advertisement. Consumerism also seeks to enforce laws against unfair trade practices and truthful product guarantees. 

Over-consumption is sometimes negatively attributed to consumerism. For instance, some people might argue that Christmas holidays are a time of heightened consumerism, due to the large amounts of goods that are purchased during this time. At its core, consumerism postulates that the more materials acquired, the better.

History of Consumerism

The consumer society emerged in the late seventeenth century and intensified throughout the eighteenth century. The change was attributed to a growing middle-class that embraced new ideas about luxury consumption and the growing importance of fashion as a motivator for purchasing rather than necessity. Others argue that consumerism was a political and economic necessity for the reproduction of capitalist competition for markets and profits, while still others point to the increasing political strength of international working class organizations during a rapid increase in technological productivity combined with a simultaneous decline in scarcity that caused a consumer culture to rise that was based on therapeutic entertainments, home ownership and debt.

The industrial revolution dramatically increased the availability of consumer goods, which led to the advent of the department store, which represented a paradigm shift in the consumer experience. For the first time, customers could buy an astonishing variety of goods, all in one place, and shopping became a popular leisure activity.

Advertising also played a major role in the emergence of a consumerist society, as goods were marketed through various platforms in nearly all aspects of life, advocating that the viewer's life was in need of some product. Over the years, advertising changed with the evolving sophistication of consumer attitudes and tastes. Advertising media evolved as well as marketers tried to stay in touch with audiences' constantly changing sensibilities and preferences. For example, billboards were created around the time that the automobile became prevalent in society in order to provide viewers with short details about a brand or a "catch phrase" that a driver could spot, recognize, and remember.

In the 21st century the focus of advertising is on technology and digitization of culture. In this new paradigm, consumer data and individual personal preferences have become increasingly available and actionable for marketers.