In Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are, Rob Walker discusses one of the central dilemmas facing marketers: they are trying to get large numbers of people to buy the same thing, while convincing them that doing so in no way makes them conformists. How do you “keep it real” (a phrase repeated ad nauseam by the marketers Walker interviewed) and appear authentic and non-conformist while trying to get as many people as possible to buy the same product?
One solution is to frame buying your product not as a boring act of conformity, but instead as a way of expressing your own unique personal identity. Buying a product you’ve seen advertised doesn’t detract from your authenticity, it enhances it — even if you’re buying a mass-produced product that thousands or even millions of other people purchased identical copies of.
Bec G. sent in this an ad from Jeanswest Australia that illustrates this, asserting that their jeans are “as unique as you”:
Of course, as Bec pointed out, the models they chose to represent how unique Jeanswest customers are are all pretty uniformly thin, even the pregnant woman.
Sarah F. sent in another example. The Australian website for the sandwich chain Subway asks customers whether their preferred sandwich is unique:
I filled out the quiz, creating the only thing I ever get if I eat at Subway: a standard veggie sandwich, no tomatoes. I was then asked to give this amazing item its very own name, to be saved for posterity on the Subway website (if they approve the name): “You’ve just created a Sub that is a reflection of you, so let’s give it a name. Feel free to be creative, after all this is YOUR creation!”
Then it was time for the big reveal. The webpage reinforced the message that designing my very own personalized sandwich
from their relatively limited stock list of ingredients is an important expression of my inner being:
I was so nervous! What if my sandwich wasn’t special? Was the honey oat bread too mainstream a choice? Oh, why didn’t I go with the chipotle sauce?!
But it all turned out ok!
In Australia, at least, I now know that my Subway sandwich choice separates me from the masses. What a relief!