I Buy Therefore I Am

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rob Walker, New York Times Magazine "Consumed" columnist and author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are (Random House, 2008), talks about "murketing" -- the murky marketing that is changing advertising and branding.


Rob Walker

Comments [45]

Michal from brooklyn

I have to agree with Albert [33]. What was the point of updating about the Clinton story during the What We Buy story when the twisty-turny political story would probably be updated about a dozen times during the day anyway.

Jun. 03 2008 01:32 PM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Carey [39,41] & hjs [40], sorry I did not respond sooner, but you could "google that"

Jun. 03 2008 01:11 PM
Carey from Jersey Baby


Jun. 03 2008 12:25 PM
hjs from 11211

catholic church?

Jun. 03 2008 12:13 PM
Carey from Jersey Baby


What is the largest ad agency in the world?

Jun. 03 2008 11:59 AM
laura from brooklyn

Car drivers act as if they never walk the streets of New York. They cut off pedestrians and, my big pet peeve, sit in their cars with their engines idling, even in good weather. In the cold, they keep the heat on, and in the summer, they sit in air conditioning while the rest of us have to inhale their exhaust. EMS and police cars are notorious for this too and they get away with it.

Jun. 03 2008 11:49 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Amazing! An entire show was broadcast about branding, and there was not one mention of the influence of the largest ad agency in the world.

Jun. 03 2008 11:48 AM
Carey from Jersey Baby

I never buy anything with a logo on it. Why should I? I already feel bombarded by advertising every time I go outside, or ride a bus/train, or log on to the internet. Why should I advertise for someone else and not get paid for it?
Plus I think visible logos on clothing is tacky and basically the same as walking around with a burger king crown on your head.

Jun. 03 2008 11:47 AM
Herb from Brooklyn, NY

As a straight guy I can tell you that I don't want to see Sex in the City because it has nothing to offer me as art or entertainment.

And I'd question the "4 good looking women" statement too.

Jun. 03 2008 11:43 AM
Michael Wong from Montclair, NJ

Come ON!!! If you had stayed around for the credits of Sex and the City you would have seen a movie screen full of special thanks for practically every product you saw in the money. How naive can a person be not to see how a commercial movie like that can't be made without tapping the brands that made the show such a cultural touchstone?

Jun. 03 2008 11:38 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

I wish your producers would stop giving you DEM campaign updates to read. We will find out what Sen. Clinton will do when she does it.

Jun. 03 2008 11:38 AM

there are brands and then there are brands. When you buy Ritz crackers you are buying a taste you expect. not the case in clothes.

Jun. 03 2008 11:34 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

This is pathetic. What a waste of time.

Jun. 03 2008 11:31 AM
jenlynch from manhattan

just to clarify: I think it is pernicious because all the media coverage and the movie itself assume this voracious appetite for material things is something most women aspire to. I feel in some ways that I am back in high school where a small group of girls are somehow setting the standard which everyone else is supposed to try to meet. I don't care that much about shoes or walk in closets and, as I mentioned above, most women I know don't care that much either. So what gives with the media coverage that makes it seem like we're all dying for a walk-in show closet?

Jun. 03 2008 11:28 AM
sevans from Union Square

People are such sheeps.

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;


The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand"

Jun. 03 2008 11:28 AM
eric from New York

This brand stuff is for kids, not adults. Serious adults, grownups, hopefully have an identity and don't a brand to know who they are and what they stand for. At best a brand is a shortcut for making a decision among complex alternatives. I don't have the time to search the world for the optimal electric drill. I just go to Sears and pick out something that will probably work well enough. Same (for me) with suits.

Both my daughter (14) and wife (49) like their Converse but neither has a relationship with them.

As for Sex and the City. After a season, and certainly after seeing Samantha topless, it got really stupid.

Jun. 03 2008 11:27 AM
Priscila from Brooklyn

talk about murky... I am a grad student at Hunter College and we are all outraged after having discovered that Coach planted a PR course at Hunter to market their products... read more at:

Jun. 03 2008 11:27 AM
Chris O from New York City

How about the shorts that advertise on people's butts? Your eyes are drawn to asses (real asses).

Jun. 03 2008 11:27 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

The ability to recognize quality and certain aspects of design is part of the cultural capital of the monied classes. Those that do not have that cultural capital use the display of designer labels as a surogate and designers that display there logos on thier goods pander to them.

Jun. 03 2008 11:26 AM
Michal from brooklyn

So in conclusion, what does Rob recommend so we can continue to make 'rational' unmurked decisions in what we consume?

Jun. 03 2008 11:25 AM
Jeff from Hoboken

I began to see hats and jackets being worn by young black men which had a logo for every team in the nba, or mlb. Now I'm seeing more jackets advertizing m&m's and other foods. Are "murketters" focussing on hip hop culture?

Jun. 03 2008 11:24 AM
Theresa from huntington

I teach in a middle school in a wealthy school district on Long Island and I teach a unit on this topic hopefully to teach awareness of advertising's effect on self-esteem, popularity, etc.
Each year, I am met with huge resistance from the very children who are head to toe wearing Abercrombie, Prade, etc. They truly believe they alone make their individual choices and are strong minded and are not influenced by anyone else. It seems like this book may be helpful in my units, but where can I get literature directed at younger people to teach in my classroom?

Jun. 03 2008 11:22 AM
Chris O from New York City

Products don't have souls.

Jun. 03 2008 11:22 AM
paul peacock from manhattan

when people wear shirts with "abercrombie & fitch" on it do they mean to identify with $3 billion in sales, over 86,000 employees, described in as:

Trading on its century-old name, Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) sells upscale men's, women's, and kids' casual clothes and accessories -- quite a change from when the company outfitted Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt for safaris. A&F has 1,000-plus stores in North America (mostly in malls) and also sells via its catalog and online. It targets college students, and has come under fire for some of its ad campaigns, as well as for some of its short-run products. The company also runs a fast-growing chain of some 450 teen stores called Hollister Co., and a chain targeted at boys and girls ages seven to 14 called abercrombie. RUEHL, a Greenwich Village-inspired concept for the post-college set, debuted in 2004.

Jun. 03 2008 11:21 AM
David from Inwood

Facebook's Beacon program was a prime example of this. Partner sites like Fandango would send consumer purchasing decisions to Facebook where they are touted to your friends as if you are personally endorsing the product. For example, I would log in to see, "Brian Lehrer bought tickets to the new Indiana Jones movie!" without Brian's opting in to the program.

There was a large privacy outcry over this.

Jun. 03 2008 11:21 AM
rick from brooklyn

let's not compare buying a certain shoe or beer to the full blown materialistic brand centered masturbation that goes on in "sex in the city" and the sick culture and mentality and culture that sorrounds it. i.e. drinking red bull or PBR is not the same as some female migrant to NYC and the upper middle class that just "has" to have that bag for 1000 dollars (on sale).

Jun. 03 2008 11:21 AM
jenlynch from manhattan

totally agree about the comment about being sick of hearing about sex in the city. I'm a middle aged manhattan mom and I don't know anyone like the women in that movie and I'm not sure I would want to. I didn't follow the original series but everything I read about the new movie makes me think yuck, yuck yuck.

Jun. 03 2008 11:20 AM

At 21, I worked for a certain huge alcohol company (initials are AB), though not covertly. I was paid, pretty well btw, to lead a group of girls, around to bars and give out free samples of the worst hard-lemon/malt beverage you've ever had.

The girls would go up to guys at the bar and strike up a conversation, then offer to buy him a drink...
I would do the same with the girls at the bar.

Whenever it happens to me now, all I can do is laugh.

Jun. 03 2008 11:20 AM
anonymous from East Village

you can't be yourself anymore in the city. it' is becoming more of a suburban, being homogenized, Vongerichtified (i.e.super-luxurified), thus NYers need to keep up with the Jones's

Jun. 03 2008 11:19 AM
Ben from North Jersey

I'll only wear a band logo because they're generally pretty cool looking and musicians need all the help they can get.
Having said that, I always tell my car dealer, if they'll take $1000 off the price of the car then I'll drive around with their sticker or license plate frame; otherwise, take it off.

Jun. 03 2008 11:19 AM
nick from brooklyn

it's much easier to buy an identity than make one yourself. how will people know what to think of you if you dont wear it on your sleeve?

Jun. 03 2008 11:19 AM

not sure what the resentment against brands are.

it isn't easy to make a product that stands for something -- and then keep the quality and soul of the product consistent. In fact it's an art.

as a photographer i definitely scrutinize images I make, then try and channel which brands, or campaigns synch up with which of my images, or creative directions I've been moving. I certainly only work with brands with which I "connect."

Jun. 03 2008 11:18 AM
NK from NYC

It's sort of unavoidable not to broadcast your brands when sites like Facebook put a running list of the things you buy online on your home page.
All over the internet, if you buy something, or search for something, you immediately get a stream of advertisments for other things you might be interested in.

Jun. 03 2008 11:17 AM
Leonardo Andres

if i see one more teenager, 20 year old, 40 year old, or tween wearing ugg boots with absolutely anything including track shorts, I might just shoot myself.

Since when did it become trendy for all women, no matter what age to dress the same?

I am in jersey btw. And people here are like sheep.

Jun. 03 2008 11:17 AM
paul peacock from manhattan

i'm with you, brian. i used a sharpie to black out the brand names printed on the inside of my mobile phone, which they force me to look at every time i open it.

Jun. 03 2008 11:16 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

Why NJ to observe consumer culter? I thought it was Columbus Ohio

Jun. 03 2008 11:15 AM
anonymous from East Village

People are no longer certain where the self resides. They are more clones continue their hostile takeover of our city, their methods are insidious and often show up in advertising. They are attracted to disposability, easy access to objects of desire, and cloning in their environment. Sameness, uniformity, and countless xerox copies feel safe to them. Do androids dream of electric sheep.

Jun. 03 2008 11:14 AM
John Lobell from NY

Once again, McLuhan is in the fore -- he wrote that when Gary Cooper got into a car in a Hollywood movie, it sold more cars than all of GM's advertising ever could

Jun. 03 2008 11:14 AM
Leonardo Andres

I am assuming i am not the only one annoyed when i see the trend of the "designer" bag phenomenon in the last couple of years. Even though i do not think there is anything designer about sticking a pattern into a purse that is essentially the company logo, so everyone can see how much money you spent on it.

What can you say about a woman who walks around with a "designer bag", while wearing huge "designer" sunglasses indoors? making sure that everyone sees how much money she/he (men do this too) on their entire outfit.

I try to dress trendy, but I do not buy any garments that have any type of visible logo. To me that is tacky.

Jun. 03 2008 10:45 AM
anonymous from East Village

Those who consume heavily and influence others' spending patterns are birthed from the head of Carrie Bradshaw.
They need a pretend life, feel like their soul is empty, lack any sense of self and are living with narcissistic personality disorder, so they buy brand names and let their marketing team tell them who to be.

Jun. 03 2008 10:43 AM
Peter from Brooklyn

Help, Im drowning in product placements!! I dont even have a TiVo, so evenining TV is like being beaten up by marketing, but it has excaped my tv, into movies and video games.
I didn't pay $11+ to get 15 minutes of ads mixed in with my product draped movie preivews. Forget about guitar hero III, i wont even go into that one.
There is no excape...

Jun. 03 2008 10:28 AM
hjs from 11211

nothing in life is free.

Jun. 03 2008 10:26 AM
anonymous from East Village

Not all of us -- it's mostly the yunnies (young urban narcissists) who are coming to the city in hordes and destroying it's character and soul. They are like androids --they have no empathy for others, see people as interchangeable, one the same as another. They throw items of value away, believing they can always get more. Yunnies are attracted to disposability, easy access to objects of desire, and cloning in their environment. Sameness, uniformity, and countless xerox copies feel safe to them.

This is keeping up with the Jones's --these children of suburban Boomers have come to consume and bring with them fear and hatred of anything that is not of a named brand. They consume heavily and influence others' spending patterns. These "murketing" symbolize empty nothingness of what's being stuffed down our throats at every turn. The yunnies bring suburban values that don't mesh with the city. They lack any sense of self, so they just buy a brand name items and let their marketing team tell them who to be.

Jun. 03 2008 09:54 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

I hope someone will mention the overuse of "google that" for internet search. "that" being the topic of interest. I am a google stock holder, but hearing it used in every day speach is really starting to bug me. I certainly don't want people to start saying "yahoo that" or "ask that", but what is wrong with "look that up" or "search that"? No one says make me a xerox anymore.

Jun. 03 2008 09:53 AM
Claude Coleman Jr. from Ringoes, NJ

I for one have always held a severe aversion to becoming some kind of walking placard or advertisement for any brand of product that I buy; the Gap has never done anything to personally augment my qualify of life, why should I do anything to benefit them? Also, as a professional musician, my band as well as many other bands’ longstanding, unwritten rule has been to remove all logo plates from all the equipment on stage, as they’re a distraction from the real focus of the performance, and simply unimportant.

Jun. 03 2008 09:49 AM

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