As a young, easily influenced teenager I fell victim to purchasing products simply because it they had a celebrity’s name on it. I remember buying a watch on Ebay simply because Gwen Stefani’s face was on the display. Of course the watch was cheaply made and much too big for my twelve year old wrists.
This was years before influencer marketing became rampant through social media. With the use of these platforms consumption has risen to an all-time high.
I can only imagine how much advertising a typical thirteen year old sees on a daily basis. At that age, I was actively seeking out the merchandise.
An impressionable audience in the age of influencer marketing
Young adults and preteens are easily influenced. They’re trying to find themselves and fit in. They seek out the approval of their peers by wearing the hottest fashion and succumbing to flex culture.
A brief definition of flex culture:
Promoting a lifestyle based on materialism, money, fame and worthiness.
Some great examples of people who actively participate in flex culture include celebrities like Jeffree Starr and Kylie Jenner. They promote this ideal lifestyle surrounded by excess materialism.
Impressionable Audiences Lead to Consumerism
At some point we all want to have carefree lives jetting around in private planes, seeing the world and never second guessing if we can afford that latte or eight Louis Vuitton bags.
When celebrities and influencers push this happy-go-lucky lifestyle attributed to purchasing products it creates a sense of need. Influencer marketing is the new advertising trick that pulls at a consumer’s heart strings. It’s no longer a product, it’s the rapport that the influencer has built with the fan base.
“I want to be like Safiya Nygaard, I need this lipstick collection!”
“Kylie Jenner is all the rage, I need this rise and shine hoodie!”
Eventually, our love for these products will wane and the ever so coveted Rise and Shine hoodie will hang in the closet unworn years after the meme has died. Much like the Gwen Stefani watch that I lusted after so badly… but never wore.
Combatting Excess Consumption
Excess consumption is something that we, as consumers can battle. If we don’t purchase these products they won’t be produced (easier said than done, right?)
These companies and influencers are making their money because they are fulfilling supply and demand. Over half the merchandise listed on the Kylie Jenner shop is sold out.
The Safiya Nygaard and Colourpop cosmetics lipstick collaboration has sold out more than once after release. These companies are supplying what consumers lust after.
To combat that, we need to educate our youth (and ourselves) about the impact that these products can have around the world.
Sweatshops and Influencer Marketing
Unfortunately we live in a society where the moral integrity of a company is not of utmost importance. The use of sweatshops to make products for luxury and cheap fast fashion brands is still thriving.
While the assumption that anything produced in China, Bangladesh or India is likely made in an unsafe factory remains true. A lesser known problem is that there are sweatshops in the US, too. This is made possible by unethical brands looking to create the cheapest clothing that they can to earn a large markup.
Fashion Nova, a brand that Kylie Jenner and Cardi B have publicly supported was recently accused of running a sweatshop in Los Angeles.With their workers making as little as $2.77 per hour. All for the cause of reproducing garments to follow the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
But cheap fast fashion brands aren’t the only ones participating in the exploitation of workers. Large brands like Nike, Disney and Levi’s have been linked to sweatshops currently or in the past.
The retailers are the kingpins
Most products are manufactured by a third party. Retailers will search for someone to produce a product at the price they ask for (usually a low-cost.) The retailers are responsible for searching for the third-party manufacturer. If we want systemic change it needs to start with the production and that duty falls on the retailers. But it doesn’t simply end there.
Looking for Transparency
As consumers, we need to look for brands that are transparent in their manufacturing processes. When a brand has a well-known third party certification, like B Corp, you know that they practice what they preach.
Alarm bells should be ringing in your head when you browse a website and see no information on how or where their products are manufactured.
Teaching the Values of Consumption
We as parents need to teach our children the reason why we need to be more conscious about our purchasing habits. When a twelve year old is exposed to countless Youtube videos about other preteens flexing their Gucci haul they won’t be as tempted to fall for the flex culture.
Educating impressionable youth that a majority of what they’re seeing on social media is an advertisement to promote excess consumption and a capitalist regime probably doesn’t sound like fun. But I can almost guarantee it is a lot less awkward than the sex talk.