Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Blog Post #4

In the reading of week 14 Lizbeth Cohen, “Culture : Segmenting the Mass, in the Consumer’s Republic , there were a few ideas that I found the most interesting. Although this reading goes pretty much in depth about mass consumption in general I found it really interesting how this all, (to my understanding) came to be known in the twentieth century.  I had initially thought that companies always sold to a target audience, but I was wrong since this reading showed that it was something that they learnt overtime. Instead of companies trying to sell a product that all people would want or that all people need they “ develop more store ‘personality,’ or ‘image,’ to fill a particular ‘niche’ in the marketplace,’ not try to be ‘all things to all people,” (Cohen 297). Which is a very smart business move. I essentially thought that it would be obvious because we are all different with opposed similarities like,  “ age group, income, education, geography, ethnic background, and use patterns,” (Cohen 297). Those differences can pretty much make or break a product. For example it wouldn’t be smart to be advertising an expensive product to a group of people with low incomes since they wouldn’t be able to afford it. In class, (December 8th lecture) we recently learned that during the twentieth century unemployment rates lowered and wages increased for all income groups which is really interesting to note because that could’ve been a result of market segmentation since, “the move from mass to market to segmented markets promised greater, steadier profits through expanding the pool of potential consumers,” (Cohen 298). The reading also hits some points more on the political side, but something I found most intriguing was that “market segmentation techniques were not only implemented in candidate campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s : they were also called on to help mobilize voters around controversial issues,” (Cohen 341). This all really just goes to show how capitalism has pretty much kept increasing and expanding in this country and probably will continue to do so. I think the most important and interesting thing I learned from this reading was that without us (consumers) this countries (and many others) economy would not be the same and that market segmentation has really helped the economy.

One thought on “Blog Post #4”

  1. I’m glad this reading resonated with you! Thanks for a thoughtful, well-written post… To clarify one important thing, however—yes, incomes were growing and unemployment falling during the period Cohen describes (the immediate post-WWII decades). But since the 1970s, wages have remained largely stagnant, and unemployment has fluctuated, while inequality has grown… yet market segmentation approaches appear to be flourishing, even in the midst of a pandemic, thanks in part due to the rise of social media and targeted messaging on the internet. So it seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse to say that market segmentation has increased incomes or reduced unemployment. As always, it depends what one means by “the economy,” but I think it would be more accurate to say that the rise of market segmentation and advertising in general has greatly increased profits for many companies while causing a huge expansion of the advertising and marketing industries, but that it is less clear what the benefits have been for the average worker or consumer. But I agree that the economy might be very different without it! Indeed, these practices have become so widespread and invisible that we take them for granted, which is why Cohen’s interrogation of their origins is so illuminating.

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