At the core of good ol’ capitalist consumer culture is the simple fact that the companies who sell us stuff need to keep convincing us to buy more stuff — stuff that’s a little different and better than the stuff we already have. To do this, they inevitably need to manufacture wants in the consumer base. Companies accomplish this a number of sophisticated ways, but really, it boils down to conceiving and producing new products, and launching marketing campaigns to create the want for them in the public.
Of course, most of the time, these manufactured wants are for things we clearly already have in one form or another. From kitchen appliances to video game systems to fashion accessories, goods are constantly being altered or improved to give us reason to replace — or add to — our suddenly outmoded stuff.
And never is the drive to promote such products so fierce as the holiday season — just watch a half hour of prime time TV for the deluge of ads aimed at consumers, or scan any given magazine or websites’ Gift Guide for ample proof. So, to commemorate this time-honored tradition, we here at the Utopianist would like to celebrate the year’s best Created Wants — the new stuff whose producers most effectively and powerfully convinced us we needed. And without further ado, here they are:
1. The iPad
Yes, it’s beautifully designed. Yes, it ostensibly represents the next step in the evolution of home computing. Yes, it’s undoubtedly kind of cool. But the most revolutionary thing about the iPad isn’t the design or the interface — it’s that Steve Jobs and co. found a brilliant way to sell you an expensive product that doesn’t do anything new. At all. Let’s be serious — it’s a fancy-looking, low-performing laptop. It’s no stretch to hypothesize that 100% of people who bought the iPad already have a computer. Or an iPhone. Or both. The vast majority of them probably already had laptops. But Apple has become so expert at manufacturing wants — by capitalizing on the brand’s reputation for innovation and top tier design, and appealing to a demographic that considers itself trendsetting — that the iPad continues to sell like hotcakes.
Image Credit: Inc.
2. 3D TVs / Laptops
Now that HD TVs, Blu-Ray players, and the like have pushed picture resolution to previously unimagined heights, it’s hard to conceive of too many more widely profitable advances in television technology. Given that you can already make out each and every grease-lathered hair follicle on Steve Carrell’s head and every dash of body paint applied to football fans’ beer bellies in the stadium stands, TV companies recognized the need to start creating new frontiers of want.
Which is why this year, we saw the tentative unveiling of a slew of 3D TVs and media devices. From HD-3D TVs to 3D laptops and cameras, a smattering of low-volume products were unveiled to entice consumers that already feel like they have the top of the line television tech. 3D was the subject of a number of business magazine stories and newspaper trend pieces — and the fledgling want was planted firmly on the assembly line for mass manufacturing next year and beyond. Nobody is really all that interested in 3D yet — it’s a novelty that’s been applied effectively a handful of times but is still otherwise most reminiscent of shlocky 50s b-movies.
Two years ago, nobody really wanted 3D TVs. Yet execs and developers saw the potential to make people want them — and I’ve got a feeling that soon, when the technology is good enough, we will. I’ve also got a feeling that 3D TV watchers of 2020 aren’t going to enjoy TV watching any more or less than TV watchers of 2010. But they’ll have bought a new 3D TV to replace their old ‘obsolete’ model anyway.
Image Credit: Learn About 3D TV