Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ferrari underwear!

Rashmi Bansal takes Mint to task for telling its readers about all the expensive stuff -- a Rs.50,000 beach dress, for example -- that they don't need or can't afford. She accuses its editors of peddling to their readers what they themselves would not buy.

Well, Bansal is an MBA, so I'm sure she knows that editors/publishers may want to use their newspaper's lifestyle section to maximize their revenues rather than, say, their readers' utility or welfare. This may also be the reason why they may want to project their newspaper as the kind that rich people read, so that it becomes the preferred destination for many more peddlers of expensive trash. What good is a business newspaper if it tells you where to buy cheap B&W television or an iPod knockoff?

Anyways, I just wanted to use Rashmi's rant to point you to this post in which Dan Ariely muses about the value of brands -- even those that others cannot notice (Ferrari underwear!):

We usually think of brands as signaling something to others. We drive a Prius to show that we are environmentally conscious or wear Nike to show that we’re athletic. In this case I didn’t want to send a signal to the world, but nevertheless I felt different, as if I were signaling something to myself-telling myself something about me and using the bag to do it.

Maybe this is the attraction of branded underwear. They are basically a private consumption experience, but my guess is that if I put on a pair of Ferrari underwear, and even if nobody saw them, they would still make me feel better about myself.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Why is she so surprised? In capitalist society it is inevitable. The phenomenon, loosely speaking, is what is called `commodity fetishism'. This was recognized about a hundred and fifty years ago.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Interesting you mention Ferrari goodies. At my company, we have a store that sells Ferrari stuff, we even have Ferrari sale day, because as you know we are closely associated with Ferrari. It's funny to see how many are bitten by this 'commodity fetishism,'---thanks to a previous commenter, is a new phrase in my vocabulary. Back to F goodies: they're gone within a week of their arrival. Include signed F1 driver's polo caps, model cars.

    Somewhere in Germany, at a Shell petrol station, I was refilling my car, and my wife spotted an offer: "Fill 30 euros or more worth, and get a Ferrari goody." You can guess what happened next.

    I now have a Ferrari 125 F1 model on a keyring :).