The problem lies partially in how we mostly buy luxury brands to help us feel better about ourselves. Doing so falsely boosts low-self esteem, and can provide a (again, false) sense of belonging and acceptance from others. Some women will even purchase expensive handbags solely to feel safer in their marriage and make other women back the f**k off. Buying nice s**t proves their husbands love them. Similarly, men's testosterone is boosted by the quality of car they drive, and women are more attracted to men in nice cars.
The trick is that we all know that we don't need a $15,000 ostrich coat, even if it keeps other ostriches from seducing our husbands. So in order to convince ourselves that it's OK, we use what's called "moral licensing" to justify our splashy, feathery purchases. We'll think stuff like, "Well, I recently helped that old woman cross the street, so I deserve to wrap my body in the warm feathers of the world's ugliest bird." People who rate themselves on surveys as "warm" or "compassionate" were way more likely to buy designer jeans than those that were directly asked if they craved some dope-ass leg wear.
Ironically, this can often mean, like in the cases of iPhone users or BMW drivers, that we convince ourselves we are good people to justify big purchases. And then, after we get those nice things, we turn around and act like jerks. We'll judge people or behave poorly because nice stuff gives us a sense of superiority.
So how does this tie into all of the previous examples on this list? Well, luxury brands know everything about how this works, and intentionally use that psychology to exploit us. That's why high-end salesmen treat customers like s**t. They prey on our insecurities and push us toward a purchase, if only so we gain approval from this sophisticated socialite selling wedding bands at the Kay's Jewelers in the mall. Similarly, a 2009 study found that people "exposed" to luxury items "are more likely to endorse self-interested business decisions ... even at the expense of others."
But even if companies like Apple don't know that the cult-like aura around their brands encourage a sense of dickish superiority in their customers (and it would actually be incredibly weird if they didn't know), they at least know what works. "Our products are for the more discerning customer, the ones who think different, the ones who know quality when they see it. Not like those other people. You know who we're talking about."
Preying on insecurity sells. And if stoking those insecurities makes us incrementally worse people, well, that's not their problem, right?
Jordan Breeding also writes for a whole mess of other people, the Twitter, and really doesn't like CenturyLink.
Corporate America is the worst. Maybe go read a book for a little while, like maybe the Cracked De-Textbook?
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