“Ummmm, no. I don’t drive BMW’s. Those are for over pretentious, wannabes. Get me an Audi or something”, the Brazilian businessman told me. I grinned. I heard comments like this at work all the time. I work at Enterprise, a car rental company. Since I work at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport branch, I have dealt with literally thousands of customers, all from different places, and professions. When it comes to products, especially cars, brand perception plays a huge role.
Cars, like many other products being sold in society have a social currency. If you own a certain product, it says something about you as a person whether you like it to or not. You get stereotyped based on the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and even the type of phone you have. In a sense, products now a days have immense power. But they have immense power because we let them. It all comes down to advertising.
After World War I, the United States experienced a state of exponential economic growth. The war had created an efficient, industrial production scene that America had never experienced before. Because of this, there was a sudden ability to produce an exorbitant number of goods from raw material.
Since so many goods were being created, there was an excess which lead to the need to try to sell the products and “get them off the shelf.” Products needed to be shown as not only having a use and a purpose, but as having a way of fulfilling one’s life emotionally. There was a push towards the idea that products make you happy. Because who doesn’t want happiness?
Because of the field I work in, which is cars, I found that the auto industry carries an immense amount of social currency. As said before, social currency is the amount of value that a product gives you in terms of raising your perceived social class. Because of this, we see them advertised about often, and in a variety of different ways.
We all want happiness. And we all want that shiny new Mercedes. We don’t want the Mercedes just because it’s a nice car, but because of the things that that Mercedes will bring to us. For men, car ads often feature supermodels paying attention to men driving by in nice cars. Or the woman is in the car with the man while he is driving it, implying that she is his girlfriend, wife or partner.
Having a nice car is a way of showing yourself as being powerful in the stereotypical western masculine context. If you’ve got a nice car, you make good money. If you make good money you are good at your job. You are good at your job because you are confident in your abilities. Your confidence carries over to your ability to charm beautiful women. YOU ARE A MAN. Or something like that. I mean just look at the face on the dude below…He’s living the life….right?
While some ads simply hint at the sexual promises and attention you will get because of your car, other directly make it a claim. One Mercedes Benz advertisement campaign that aired in the 2013 Super bowl made this claim. The link is below. It features the guy in the picture above that is LIVING THE LIFE.
Well….if you watched the video above then I guess you solved the world’s most sought after question: what makes you happy. Apparently if you have a Mercedes Benz, your greatest hopes and desires will be reached. One of the most common goals that car commercials show is how a man reaches his potential. Attaining beautiful women is often a shown as the apex of living the good life.But women aren’t always used as the prize to gain from buying a car. Oftentimes cars are anthropomorphized as women, like in this Fiat commercial. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrdKr-p3fWc
Irregardless of your viewpoint on luxury items, luxury products are all built into the idea of class. If someone were to receive a promotion at work, they might feel tempted to get that Rolex watch, that Audi car, that Louis Vuitton purse, wallet ect. It’s a way of raising our perceived social class. We perceive social classes largely because of the brands and the way they promote themselves. Luxury brands create a perceived social class largely because of the way they have marketed and branded themselves.