Sunday, November 17, 2013

Microclimates of Exclusivity – the latest product of a society that no longer makes anything.

Frank Bruni’s NYT Op-Ed – ‘The Extra Legroom Society’ describes just how tier-obsessed - and in some cases ridiculous - our society has become.

Bruni begins the piece by describing how his family’s simple plan to visit a well-known Los Angeles amusement park quickly became an adventure in Status Symbol Land (as coined by the Monkees in their song Another Pleasant Valley Sunday).

Americans have long been disciples of status. It is apparent in the things we own, the clubs we join, the fashions we wear and the cars we drive. It’s how we make a statement. It’s how we say, “I’ve made it, and screw you” or, I’ve made it, but I care about the planet” or, I’m too sexy for my Escalade.”

It’s nothing new, so what’s the big deal? Bruni says that lately, what he calls “microclimates of exclusivity” are popping up everywhere, and in an economy that doesn’t manufacture very much these days, we sure know how to create distinctions.

You don’t just buy a ticket and get on a plane – there are ‘levels.’ Want that extra legroom? You’re gonna pay. Want less hassle? You’re gonna pay some more. Want a shorter line at the theme park? Just pay to be bumped up a few rungs on the status ladder and you’ll get a second go-round, even cutting right in front of some poor slob who’s been waiting in line 40 minutes for his first. That one kills me. Instead of making the product better in the form of a shorter wait, these guys increase revenue by exploiting your inconvenience (Bruni didn’t say whether they actually ordered the ‘platinum’ service, or whatever the hell Six Flags calls it).

I realize this is something that's been around for a long time – niche marketing, personalized service, new product extensions created by cubicle dwelling marketing geniuses, swamped in saturated markets. But this kind of elitism makes me a little queazy. Are we in the 80s again?

You really should read this one.