It is 2013 and I live in the United States.
My basic survival needs are met.
I enjoy a level of freedom that allows me to entertain the intellectual pursuits of my choosing – even investing in higher education, to that end. But the barrage of interloping marketers, invading my mind and home, feed into a distracting urge that there are needs, often experiential needs, that require me to purchase or subscribe to something new.
What isn’t new is the urge to live lavishly, it is a human pursuit, but how our free market society continues to tap into the shifting ideals of culture is a wonder to me. Masked as supplements to the life you already lead, you no longer are required to lift a finger for your life to be full. (A broken record, since 1950.)
Online shopping is one thing, but new ventures are popping up all the time that promise to aid you in supplying some additional comfort or foresight. This corporatized approach of monetizing or capturing a crowd’s experiential demands now permeates our concept of how to acquire Love, and some of our most basic creature comforts and amenities. Ironically, these new forms of “experience” often remove literal human interaction for the virtual replacement services, however the content speaks to our real need for community.
Here are just a few examples:
Hello Flo, a company that regularly ships a care package, timed to arrive with you/your daughter’s menstrual cycle. Targeting newcomers to womanhood, and mothers who (perhaps) lack the creativity to cobble such a thoughtful gift together, themselves. Though and interesting concept – it sidelines the importance of mother-daughter interaction by disassociating it with a direct experience, allows for parental forgetfulness or absence, and disallows for those who may have irregularities to their cycle by creating a normative model for womanhood. (I would, however, possibly recommend this for single fathers.)
Speaking of the men, the dollar shave club is targeted primarily at you! Women are the secondary audience, but one this company mitigates with “the lover’s blade” allowance which acknowledges the regular needs of all sexes to groom themselves, again, per social norms.
True and Co., focused on lingerie, is one of many sites that help you understand how to deal with the shapeliness of your body and present it in fresh and fitting attire.
After you are appropriately freshened and dressed up you can find love on Tinder, then plan your dates on Why Don’t We. Even provide for your pet, with the click of a button! With all of the individuality taken out of life for the branded experience that someone else has packaged for you – is it making life easier, or numbing us to our own lived experiences? Has the catchphrase “there’s an app for that” gone into 1984 territory? Are the new suburbs located in our smartphones?
Living in this era, cognisant of the sheer immensity of the global population and diversity of needs within that mass, I recognize the opportunity for meeting some of the desires of different groups through this style of marketing, but without harnessing that industry to meet the greater social and economic needs that surround us, it falls flat.
Some businesses have recognized this dynamic and have side-stepped into a new bracket of B-corporations. They tap into the current style of economy and turn it around to serve multiple purposes. B-corps are not just philanthropic in the traditional sense, but they are founded on a principal of social responsibility. Warby Parker is one such brand. They provide you with fashionable glass and sun wear, (including a free trial experience package to start with,) and your purchase provides someone else with a pair who needs it.
Unlike traditional non-profits B-corps are “business as usual,” bringing in revenue, but with a shared vision to benefit the entire reach of their influence. We’ve seen how corporations can be self-serving to globally damaging degrees. Non-profit creation can be daunting because of the complex process to gain status, precedent to exist in-perpetuity, and the lack of ability to harness earned income (creating a scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel culture, particularly for smaller entities.) B-corps are a humanist approach to business, and, frankly, the only reasonable new venture model around.
Why the rant? Because if the trend of meeting the needs and desires of humans through virtual services has the staying power that it has already proven, the managers and workers behind those start-ups must consider both the implications of the kind of service they provide, as well as the power of their influence.