‘Tis once again the season of peak selling, so a roving TCTer’s thoughts naturally turn to the topic of how, even as their socio-economic order finishes devouring the basis for the further maturation of human society, corporate capitalists continue to provide solutions to non-problems.
Now, so far, the system’s critics have been rather less than careful with the topic of product provision and use, having committed to treating it as “consumption” and then swinging various crude hammers pointlessly around the room. Herbert Marcuse, foreshadowing if not script-writing for Ronald Reagan, based his work on the presumption that average black people in the Jim Crow United States had Cadillacs. Such things not only flew with the left but became classics of supposedly critical theory.
Mainstream critics of leftist cultural critics are, sadly, largely correct when they say the left has tended to be way too cavalier about the existence of great capitalist products. This is funny (in both senses) in part because Marx and Engels famously praised some features of capitalism. Yet few subsequent thinkers in the Marxian tradition have thought with precision about the indisputable and extremely important fact that a great many of the products business society has managed to work out and make affordable are things any sane democracy would want to retain in any decent, sustainable future.
The fact that the system also is quite good at turning broad public scientific breakthroughs (for which it then takes undeserved credit, of course) into actual gadgets is nothing to sneeze at, either, if we want to make such a future.
But, having said all this, it remains true that corporate capitalism is, by its core design, drowning us in silly-ass, often hi-tech, crapola.
Once TCT‘s editor finishes his ongoing book about the ultimate platform for this systemic project, our TCT website will get an overdue structural upgrade and thereby return to seeking user interactivity. One thing we’ll work on then is gathering nominees not only for the annual Golden Hicksie, but also a reader-fueled competition for most offensive new commodity of whatever years we have left.
Perhaps, inspired by this here new product, which I encountered yesterday, we will call that new award the Consumer Trap Turkey of the Year:
That, friends, is the Waring electric turkey fryer. It retails for more than $600. One would love to know how many times each one sold will ever be used. Surely, the ever-so-perfectly-named Conair Corporation knows. It is the entity that puts this beautifully stupid thing on the market.
Great news! For the low, low price of only $128, you could purchase this desperately needed corporate product. Yes, these are — in the phrasing of the corporate maker — “anti-ball crushing” pants! At last!
This begs the question of which is more telling and hilarious: 1) the claim that pants, in themselves, have ever harmed or even mildly disturbed anybody’s testes, or 2) the product’s pre-literate promise to crush anti-ball.
Either way, such is the stuff of late corporate capitalism. As burnt forest falls from the sky, the only problems getting solved are the shareholders’ pending quarterly claims.
Not, of course, that the corporate marketers will ever admit this. Consider this shameless lie from Lululemon, the wondrous seller of ABC Pants:
Why We Made This
You’ve got room to move in these quick-drying, four-way stretch pants.
If you believe that, I can also get you a great deal on a bridge in Brooklyn. LULU “made this” because, like all big businesses, it desperately needs to find new ways to commodify human perceptions and activities — i.e., to create phony needs.
Nobody knows for sure what percentage of overall (so-called) economic activity now goes into marketing. As reported in The Consumer Trap book, experts in the early 1990s guesstimated that it was something like 1/7. Because even that probably didn’t including the share of expenses of actual production that are explained by marketing considerations, that, stunning a number as it was, was probably a severe under-statement.
In any event, here is some new data from Gartner, Inc. on this important topic:
Marketing leaders surveyed estimate their budgets, on average, total 12% of revenue, marking the third consecutive year of increases in Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey results. Larger companies tend to spend a higher proportion of their revenue on marketing — 13% at companies with more than $5 billion in annual revenue versus 10% at smaller companies that have $250 million to $500 million in annual revenue.
This, again, doesn’t count the costs of marketing’s penetration into production. But, generally speaking, it corroborates the idea that a huge chunk of corporate capitalism’s output is marketing/social engineering/economic waste.
According to Advertising Age, it now costs $240,000 a minute to air your ad on “Fox NFL Sunday.” That’s $14,400,000.00 per hour, and this is only the fee for the air-time. The cost of hiring the creators and actors goes above and beyond this sum.
All funded through the private marketing taxes built into the prices of big businesses’ products.