The Concept of Commodification

More musings from the Story of Stuff book:

Because we spend so much of our time chasing after money, to buy stuff that we don’t need, that promises us the world but delivers none of it – our communities are suffering. We spend so much time on the above, that we’re not available to be present and useful amongst our local community. This feeds our discontent and unhappiness because people in our local community could meet our need for relationship. We can have our emotional needs met by having a chat with a neighbour. We can have logistical needs met, by a neighbour bringing us a meal, babysitting, dog-walking, offering a lift or taking in our mail whilst we’re away.

Ironically, all of these things have now been commodified in our consumerist society and are available to buy from strangers, at a price! Probably most people don’t even know their neighbours these days, since all they do is go to work early and arrive home late. They are too busy, too stressed, time-poor and over-scheduled. No wonder we have increasing amounts of isolated elderly, or even depressed and overweight adults and children in our society. And the solution is really so simple!

If you’re a systems thinker, than you might liken this phenomenon to a negative feedback loop. A problem or problems, that cause an effect that only serves to add to the original problem. We now have to work harder, to pay for the kinds of service that friends and neighbours used to provide for free. This only serves to add to our stress levels and lack of time. So you can see how the downward spiral continues!

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More Musings on the Story of Stuff – Branding & Marketing

As I said yesterday, I’m currently reading this book:

Today, in the chapter on distribution I struck upon something horrifying. I guess I sort of knew this already, but seeing it in black and white is even more shocking. I’m sure we all know that most companies out there don’t actually make the stuff they sell, but they buy it in and have unknown manufacturers make it for them. We’ve seen this so much in the clothing industry where brands like H&M and Primark have clothes made up in India and take no responsibility for the working practices of those in their supply chain. This is all part of these companies plans to cut costs, basically by abdicating responsibility.

This efficiency driven, cost-cutting is pervasive. Companies don’t make the stuff they sell, they simply brand it. Apple don’t make computers, but they sure as heck have created a brand that people crave. H&M don’t make clothes, Nike doesn’t make trainers. They all simply buy the garments and items from producers, or the parts to assemble them and often not even from the same factory, but from multiple producers. It’s quite possible that one factory churns out the exact same product for multiple retailers.

So really, let’s face it – it’s often not the item we are buying, but we’ve been sold on the brand. The founder of Nike even admitted that the company once saw themselves as production oriented, but that they now understand their most important function is to market the product. So guess where they put all their money? Advertising. And often this advertising isn’t even for a specific product, it’s all about the image they want to associate with their brand. Nike aren’t selling your trainers, they are selling you a fashion statement that in this climate will probably be outdated in a mere 2 weeks!

Self-Branding – The Ultimate Narcissism!

Has anyone else noticed this pervasive trend for self-branding? It makes me sick! People think that they can package up who they are and often try to make this meaningless mash of skills into their career, with the end of marketing themselves as brand. Now, I have no problem with this if you actually have a legitimate career – we all know that, for example; painters and decorators, builders, plumbers and so on often like to use their name as their brand. To me, this makes perfect sense. I do it myself because I am a sole trader and have a state registered profession that is my career. People in these kinds of jobs will also have many years of training behind them, at recognised institutions like colleges and universities.

What irks me is people who have a blog and think that blogging is a legitimate self-promotion path which qualifies them to market themselves as a writer, editor, copy-writer, personal and/or life coach, some kind of entrepreneur and God knows what else! The reality is that they have qualifications for none of these things and often, no paid experience to back it up. Erich Fromm suggested that narcissists objectify partial aspects of their personality they identify themselves with, such as intelligence, reputation and wealth etc (Erich Fromm Online 2017).

It just makes me want to vomit. You are not a brand, you are a person – yes, you are unique – yes and you certainly may have some skills. But please don’t use your blog and your social media accounts to promote yourself as something you are not. Actually, the people most likely to be using social media etc are those with narcissistic tendencies. Their pages are all about strategic self-promotion and and self-presentation. Social media presents a large opportunity to show off and users identify themselves with their displayable qualifications.

This kind of self-promotion is at best mis-leading and I bet these people don’t realise that, at worst – it could lead to legal action against them if something goes wrong. Do you know that you need to hold public liability insurance if you are going to act as a life coach? You need professional indemnity cover and you need legal cover, to protect you from libel and slander? Usually a condition of all these types of insurance is that you are working within the scope of your skills, in your field of practice. It would not hold up in a court of law to say that felt you had skills in life coaching because you’d written about how you changed your own life, on your blog.

Ultimately, I want to get across the message to be careful – both if you are looking for something on the web and if you are thinking of promoting yourself as providing some kind of service. If you are contemplating life-coaching, for example; make certain that whoever you are considering has some professional training and qualifications. For goodness sake, don’t just find someone and go with them because they make themselves sound good on their blog. Just because they managed to change their own life and influence some people digitally, it does not mean that they have a single ounce of skill that would allow them to coach someone else to do this! They probably count the number of comments on their blog as valid indicators of change/success.

Check out their qualifications, make sure they’ve not been purchased from some phoney online University or cheap correspondence course. Make sure they actually have some qualifications! The same applies if you are thinking of hiring someone to write some content for you, or an on-line article perhaps. For goodness sake, find someone with real experience at an actual newspaper or similar. Make sure they have a degree in journalism or the English language. If you want someone to speak at an event, make sure they have plenty of relevant experience doing so before. A lot of people ‘could’ get up in-front of an audience, but it doesn’t mean that they would be engaging, funny or worthwhile listening to.

References

Erich Fromm Online (2019). Narcissim. Available at: https://fromm-online.org/en/narzissmus/ [Accessed 2017].

The Best Laid Plans

Whenever I have to go out for the day, whether it’s for business or pleasure I plan to take a packed lunch with me. This is a crucial money-saving tactic, as you can easily spend £3.50 – £5.00 on lunch, even just a bog-standard sandwich! It’s easy to purchase an insulated lunch bag and a couple of mini ice packs, so you can store your lunch safely, regardless of whether you’re out and about or not. Another great tip is to take a thermos flask with you, so you can save another £3.50 or so on a hot drink. If you think you’re going to succumb to a sweet treat, mid-afternoon – then pack one! It’s far cheaper to buy a multi-pack of chocolate bars than it is to purchase them singly, either from a shop or a vending machine.

So I dutifully did all of the above and set out on my journey. Imagine my frustration and dismay when I arrived at my destination, to find I’d left the lot on the kitchen counter! The best laid plans and all that. So I ended up having to purchase items in a corner shop anyway! This was even more frustrating, as I had to break my own zero waste rules as you cannot buy anything ready-to-eat unpackaged here, except for fruit. I blame my forgetfulness on a phone call that I received just as I was picking all my belongings up to leave. That interruption cost me dearly, in every sense.

Still the other beauty of a packed lunch is you can always eat it later or the next day! Unfortunately my sandwich hadn’t remained cool, despite the cool pack I’d used – too many hours had passed, so I had to bin that.  However, everything else was ambient and I just had it for my tea instead!

Have you had any money-saving fails?