How many brands do you follow on your social media? Do you feel like following every new release, trend, or style? So, what is it, shopping mania or just a fad of shopping frenzy?
Whenever I see a new fashion, style, trend, or fad, I always remember Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller Tipping Points and its three agents of viral change. In his book, Malcolm talks about how young hipsters in downtown Manhattan revived the ailing brand Hush Puppies shoe wear and helped it become famous again during the mid-1990s
Malcolm claims that the law of the few, the sticking factor, and the power of the context are the factors behind the viral spread of any phenomenon.
It simply means that few influencers can lead the trend and make it stick in the minds of many. When this coincides with the right time and place, it goes viral.
I’m inclined to Malcolm’s theory. I feel it may have some answers to the subject matter of shopping mania and shopping frenzy if there is any!
But during that era of the 1990s, the internet and its by-products of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat were just ideas yet to grow.
Well, before getting into the shopping mania and shopping frenzy, please bear with me for a small science tour.
Do you know what the thing we consume most in our daily life?
Everything that you see, hear, taste, and sense, turns into information. This information is processed and stored in our brains.
We use these piles of information for our decisions, actions, and emotions consciously or subconsciously.
The more information we receive, process, and store, the more we become experienced. Yet, how we use this stored information is relative.
In other words, when you encounter a new phenomenon, activity, scene, news, or taste, your mind matches it with what you already have.
The pace of how you react to this supposedly new or old encounter of information depends on where it exists in your mind.
Maybe no one can better describe this process like Daniel Kahneman in his bestselling book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow. Kahneman calls subconscious and conscious minds system one and system two, respectively.
In short, system one is responsible for immediate action or reaction to what your mind receives, while system two is in charge of more thinking and planning for taking action.
The more information on a particular matter your brain receives and processes, the more you become experienced on this matter.
With time, our brain forms memory about this matter. Consequently, this subject matter moves, maybe in parts, from system two to system one, where the process of action and reaction to this particular matter becomes faster. However, during this process, our brain encounters various effects that may make our decisions, actions, and reactions biased.
So, scientists said, you know we can do this with our computers. We can make programs that can emulate the process of our brains.
They were sort of right, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) was born.
In a nutshell, artificial intelligence to bring its powerful output needs data to build patterns. These patterns follow the repetition of certain behaviors. Consequently, it matches the past with the present to predict the future. If there is no past, there is no future.
Now, enough of science, and let us go back to our subject matter of shopping.
Connecting all of what I have mentioned earlier with brands’ offerings can give us insights into the shopping mania or shopping frenzy.
Brands are sending a lot of messages through various means of communication and media channels.
They seek to create a particular image about their brands in your mind. Consciously or subconsciously, they aim for this image to stick and stay there for a longer time.
So, when you see or hear about a new model, product, or trend these brands bring to the market, the image stored in your mind starts to kick in.
When this happens at the right time and place, your shopping journey with a particular brand begins.
Now, with the digital channels and social media get involved, time and place become ubiquitous.
When brands use influencers and celebrities to promote their products, the few become more. Brands seek to touch your emotional experience and connection stored in your mind.
Add the use of artificial intelligence tools, the path to your call-to-action (CTA) becomes shorter.
The interaction of brand image, influencers, AI, and social media, create a form of excitation. This excitation is the shopping frenzy, whereby many start to want more of these brands. If you are among the many, you are excited. If you get overexcited, then you may have shopping mania.
What increases or decreases shopping mania is FOMO – fear of missing out. You may feel that if I don’t get this, I might have nothing. The fear of missing out could bring more pressure from peers and surroundings because they may have it and you may not.
Now we come to shopping mania and shopping frenzy!
So let us see now how brands take advantage of this shopping frenzy, and seek to create shopping mania.
A smart brand observes, watches, and proacts in due course. It seeks to create a community around itself by either penetrating a particular culture or forming one of its own.
This is what happened with Hush Puppies in Malcolm’s book. The ‘hip ‘culture helped the brand to go viral.
The hip culture relates to the ‘Drop culture. It is the street culture, where to be liberal, young, natural, and down to earth is demonstrated in various forms.
Fashion brands have harried to feed this culture with their products.
If someone feels belonging to that culture, he or she seeks to show this belonging. Mind you, it is not binding that this person is deeply involved or belongs to the roots of this culture. Showing belonging might be cool, and that is what this person needs.
So the hype is up, the formula of a trend is complete, and a trend is out. Brands are ready to lead and let you follow the trend.
How brands turn the hype into a shopping frenzy?
In marketing, there is something called ‘LTO’ (Limited Time Offer’. LTO can be associated with what is called limited-edition concept. These two guys are a reflection of a basic law of economics, scarcity. Scarcity induces supply and demand.
When there is less of what we want and desire, there will be more demand. But when we feel that what you want is available, the hype of demand tends to wither.
So, smart brands looked at this and thought they could do better and maintain the hype.
The limited-edition is a resonating strategy, but what if they can bring more of the limited-edition, and have more sales.
Rather than filling the market with seasonal products and offers, these brands use their market intelligence and observe the ongoing trend. They look at what active generations like millennials and generation Z are hyped for, and offer products accordingly, but with limited amounts. With time, interested buyers tend to understand that. If we do not buy it now, we may have a big chance of missing it. The cycle of offering a limited edition and bringing a new one becomes shorter.
Other big established brands like Gap missed this concept. It thought that keeping playing the card of the jeans-and-T-shirt trend that went viral during the 1990s would be enough, but it wasn’t.
While fast fashion brands have capitalized on this strategy, other brands that kept their have-been strategy like Gap and Levi’s suffered.
Ok, what about the luxury brands? Do you think they would let this go? I don’t think so.
There is a kind of impression that luxury brands are upmarket products. It might be true.
But, there is a rewarding opportunity, and luxury brands want a piece of that promising market without diluting their image.
Luis Vuitton has collaborated with Supreme. Burberry offers what it calls the B Series.
Whatever the trend is, brands save no effort to be part of it. Drop, Black Lives Matter, COVID, and Me Too.
A good example of that is Nike’s embrace for the former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stand against racism.
With all the backlash or commotion that ensued, Nike’s ad featuring Kaepernick paid off massively.
Maybe brands pursue to be limited with what they offer, but definitely seek to be ubiquitous with their image of diversity, equality, ethics, and it is for everyone.
You can see that on their websites, social media accounts, and ads. The young slim, tall, and fit models are not the only ones that present the products. Brands are saying that we have products for you, even if you do not feel like a model. You are not excluded. No matter what you are, you are a part of what we offer.
That is not all!
As I mentioned earlier, brands seek to give you a sense of exclusivity while being inclusive! Let us see how.
Although the drop culture is not the only culture in town, the hype that this culture has created directly or indirectly is a lot. And social media has played the biggest role in that hype.
Maybe the intention from the drop was to express the feeling of being young, free, independent, and down to earth. It is honest and innocent. Maybe uniqueness and exclusivity were not part of that sense.
But if you add that sense of uniqueness and exclusivity to the drop, you may have an optimal formula for the hype. This is exactly what social e-commerce has done. It is a product of the interaction of the hype with social media and online shopping.
Social e-commerce is a relatively new phenomenon that integrated social media with eCommerce. People tend to share their shopping experiences, good or bad, online through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
If you feel that you are part of something, why not share it with others. If you feel that you got something exclusive and not anyone can have it, why not brag about it.
If you feel excited and happy about what you got, maybe sharing this feeling make you more excited. If you have a bad experience with what you bought, sharing it might get some of your remorse off. You may feel that helping others not fall into the same pitfall could alleviate your bad experience.
What can we learn?
Although many brands seek to create a shopping frenzy about their products and turn it into shopping mania, shopping mania is our thing as consumers.
Now, if you have a shopping mania or not, it is you who knows better. Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily, but first, you need to ask yourself whether you can afford it?
Yet, if you have it and think you need to get rid of it, you need to think of your interaction behavior on social media! Shopping mania is an effect, not a cause.
Unless you are a minimalist or too rational, you may think you are far away from all this shopping mania or shopping frenzy.
You are right to think so, but my friend being a minimalist or a too-rational person is also an effect, not a cause. And it is a good thing if you mean it and can manage it well.
But you know, I, myself, who is writing this piece and assume I understand what is going on, I may easily fall prey to brands.
I don’t know why, when I hear the word minimalism and affordability, the scene from the Movie Aviator always comes to my mind. Leonardo DiCaprio (Howard Hughes) meets his girlfriend’s Cate Blanchet (Katharine Hepburn) family over lunch. He mentions his business, and they respond that ‘we don’t care about money here Mr. Hughes’; he answers back ‘that’s because you have it.
You may be able to make the connection, I don’t know!
It all depends on your value system and its associated trade-off capacity, which is tuned by affordability.
Well, AI is doing the job, but it is like our minds, biased. Yet, at least we as humans have emotions, unlike AI.
So, sometimes it feels good not to be too rational and enjoy the moment. It is all emotional or ironic, I think!