David Stark’s ‘Parsonian Compromise’ defines outdated beliefs of a distinct separation between economic value and ethical values. In contrast to this definition, we nowadays see an arising collective of lucid consumers, questioning the origins of a brand rather than its previously dominant price formations. These ‘economics of meaning’ force intangible assets like brands to merge value and values, driving unique selling points to be defined by ethics.
A fitting model, exhibiting this evolved consumer pattern, can be found in fashion industries. The commonly used statement that fashion is ‘a way to express yourself’ was invented to fit fashions marketing purpose of continuously producing buying behaviour. In times defined by the Parsonian Compromise, this statement successfully resulted in massive consumerism, persuading audiences that the aesthetics of newly bought, trending clothing would enlarge their social status.
However, these beliefs have recently gone through massive changes. Since the actual origins of fashion production often display a large variety of unethical consequences, growing groups of consumers nowadays collectively oppose to identify with these brands as way to ‘express themselves’. Concluding shifting appreciations, generating critical views towards unethical labor brands such as Primark, yet enlarging audiences that rather relate to products with a more ‘social reputation’, such as TOMS.
The appreciation of a ‘social reputation’ can be perceived as a reference to forms of humane fairness. Yet it also exhibits how affective valuation is generated through public deliberation rather than by our individual perceptions. This collective affection, also known as lifestyle segmentation, is nowadays largely amplified by social media users. Their valued, intangible posts possess a powerful authority that creates peer pressure, thus massively influences human identities and purchase behaviour. For example, this widely shared campaign ‘The 2 Euro T-shirt’, causes a reasonable, yet rhetorical negative affective proximity towards brands such as Primark:
As a result, the proverb ‘a good start is half the work’ has become more genuine than ever before. The social media revolution clearly constrains marketeers to value, therefore target, influential early adopters. Though before they are truly capable of doing this, their majority will probably waste large amounts of time, desperately trying to make sense of big data.