Monday, 8 May 2017

Aspirational Lifestyles

Had occasion to go into the loos at Waitrose in Bath yesterday and I spotted this menu card for a curry on the way out.

Now it's based on a jar of Waitrose curry sauce, but you have to add a couple of things yourself, like a stick of cinnamon and a chili. Why aren't those ingredients in the jar of curry sauce already, unless it's a marketing ploy to make you think you're actually cooking a curry from scratch yourself, rather than cheating and using a jar of sauce? You're either using a jar of curry sauce for convenience, or you're not - there's a certain irrationality to using a jar and then adding several other ingredients that are missing from the jar.

We called into a kitchen shop exhibiting serried ranks of exorbitantly priced KitchenAid mixers at £500 or £600 a pop. I got into an interesting conversation with the shop assistant about the price of these devices; apparently distributors aren't allowed to put them into shop sales because it could detract from the brand image as an aspirational item.

Aspirational items are those characterized by a desire to achieve social prestige through ownership, or in other words, 'cachet value' to portray the owners as something they are not. In aspirational marketing there's an element of deceit, but a deceit in which the buyer is fully complicit. This is especially the case if the item in question is no better than a much cheaper item that does exactly the same as, if not more than, the much higher priced one - like, in this case, a Kenwood mixer. Brands capitalising on this are those such as Dyson and Cath Kidston.

Some fairly expensive items are worth the extra money simply because they are better made, perform a variety of functions or are simply beautiful -  like the Dualit toaster, which you can easily dismantle and for which you can buy replacement elements to make it last, literally, a lifetime, or the Kirby vacuum cleaner, which performs a myriad more tasks than a Dyson and is a complete home cleaning system.

Lifestyle-on-a-shelf is a phenomenon of the day - people hire professional decorators to give their houses cachet value that comes from their wallets rather than the creativity of their own minds. The obsession with lifestyle items has resulted in charity shops undergoing a boom as last year's lifestyle items (which are still perfectly serviceable) are thrown out in favour of this year's lifestyle item. Most of us are guilty of falling into this unsustainable and wasteful trap.

There's a Farrow and Ball paint shop in Bath which we passed yesterday. It's stocked to the gills with pretentious colour names. Hay and I joked about a Cannon and Ball paint range, which would include Rock On Tommy blue, That'll Do For Me distressed chalk white and Oldham orange. On reviewing today's post, I came across this.

A competing Chuckle Brothers paint range would be a good marketing idea - To Me To You grey and Oh Dear, Oh Dear green...

Talking of Dyson, he had his 70th birthday party on Saturday night and woke up half the people in the neighbourhood with a massive firework display. I slept through it, but Hay heard it above the din of my snoring. You have to admit that he's a very sprightly and active 70 year old.


  1. Well, after having read what you have said about Dyson... all I can say is that their business behaviour must depend on which country they operate in because we bought ours in a sale at a very reduced price.

    1. Dyson aren't as religious as KitchenAid - and KitchenAid don't change models, so they have to fleece the customer more.