Example Of Hyper-Reality Essay
The world today is impregnated with a swarm of images and advertising strategies which have one basic behind them all – postmodern aspects of marketing. As the name suggests, postmodernism is simply a state that comes post modernism – it is a state where past understanding of humans have been discarded and a state of enlightenment with respect to brands and product consumption is felt. The term postmodernism can be defined in several ways. There is no one definition for postmodernism. However, as Jameson (1983) best defines it, a postmodernist society can be identified as a consumer society which is lined by the behavior such as pastiche and schizophrenia. The term “pastiche” defines the behavior where the consumers stay detached or where there is no emotional depth. Schizophrenia defines the attitude of the consumers where the self image is that projected instead of the real one (Firat & Venkatesh, 1993, p.227). The passages to follow will discuss more of these behaviors and characteristics.
The postmodernism in marketing can be identified by way of several key features. Some of these can be termed as: hyper-reality, fragmentation, reversal of production and consumption etc. the following passages will be discussing the first two characteristics of marketing in post-modernism, while also highlighting the fact how “the image is the product” holds true in the present scenario.
Exactly as the term defines it, hyper reality is the extension of reality. In the postmodern world, the reality of the consumer is not the relative image, rather it is an image created by the consumer himself, as he deems fit for him. In short, hyper-reality is the schizophrenic image of the consumer created by the consumer of his own self. These days, almost all brands and products advertising and marketing revolves around this projected image. Hyper-reality is the main basis of any marketing campaign these days. It is specifically this schizophrenic image which differs the modernistic era (where reality was perceived as different) from the post-modernistic era.
Let us explain this phenomenon using an example. The theme parks such as Disney World, Universal Studios work on the similar lines by portraying a world to the people which is imaginary and does not exist in truth (Firat, Dholakia & Venkatesh, 1994, p.40). Nevertheless, people relate to these worlds, simply owing to the projections made in their minds – by way of an excellent marketing strategy. Then again, this projection of a hyper-realist self is very prominent when it comes to apparel branding. By way of certain projections, people when consuming certain brands of apparel create an image of themselves as relating to that brand. For example – by consuming apparel/goods by Chanel, people invariably classify themselves as an upper-class in the society – which may not be true in practicality. This is a projected image of oneself which is associated with brands or product. Even in our day to day lives, one can feel people reproducing or recreating characters simulated in advertisements or television. If using a particular brand of jeans is said to make you feel sexy, one does tend to create that impression/feeling when using that particular brand of jeans.
This hyper-reality that surrounds itself around the consumers and their consumption of the product has been termed as one of the key features of postmodernism in marketing. However, this is not all there is. Post-modern marketing has become a complex mixture of certain postulates, which if not understood or adhered to would result in the total failure of the marketing campaign. Fragmentation forms another such important postulate of post-modernist marketing.
As understood from the passages above, the consumers these days form a certain image of themselves and their buying patterns are focused on this image of themselves. However, unlike the old days where marketers would focus on mass-marketing, the consumers these days are complex. Each consumer has different characteristics and hence, marketing too these days has become fragmented. Teschl explains, “Postmodern consumer is a fragmented individual who lives in fragmented and paradoxical consumption moments” (2007).
An individual can assume different personalities depending upon the brand of the product that he uses so much so that he might have personalities which contradict each other. This is just a way to present an individual who has varying flavors in life and who does not hesitate from trying newer and even unorthodox options. Firat, Sherry and Vankatech term these multiple identities of an individual as “multiphrenic selves” (1994).
Another example is of the popular television sitcom, Seinfeld. Here, the characters in the show are unrelated with any know identity and the entire plot revolves around the unrealistic lives of these role players. The plot ends up earning the smiles and laughter of millions of people from around the world. The simple reason being, at individual level, each viewer is looking to find and settle down for a perfect identity which will suit him and therefore ends up assuming self in these imaginary characters. The plot and writers of the sitcom leave the identity of the characters hollow enough to be later filled by the viewers as their own. This fragmentation applies for most television sitcoms and movies.
“The Image is the Product”
Unlike the modern era where the product used to be marketed, the consumers these days are more into buying images – as was also explained under the headers hyper-reality and fragmentation. The product has changed. The consumer has started projecting an image of himself as he sees/ wants it and accordingly his purchase decisions are made (Hamouda & Gharbi, 2013, p.41). Even the conventional product has changed. These days, the image is what is sold – an image is built around a particular product and the marketing is done accordingly. It may suffice to say that unlike the old times when the product was what was built first and then the marketing strategy and image was built; these days the roles have reversed. The image is what is being built first and the product is being created so as to comply with that image. It is this image that the consumers are buying. For example- in real estate, companies are projecting images which differentiate between certain sects in society: houses for those adventurous types, houses for those in need of solitude, family-oriented section of society etc. Thus, even as the end product is the same – a house for all – it is the image surrounding these houses that are differentiated and hence, the purchase-decision but different people also differ. Ultimately, different housing societies change their features and specification with respect to the image that they have been selling to the consumers. For example, if the image is focusing on adventurous consumers, then the housing society might include activities like rock-climbing, rappling etc. On the contrary, societies implying images of serenity might have more green areas and wilderness as the key features. Thus, it is the image which is first sold and the end product is them molded in accordance to this image.
Importance of the Above Features in Marketing
Learning from the above, it may be said that the consumer belonging to the post-modern era is extremely complex to discern and old marketing strategies simply would not prove to be successful with the consumer these days. Thus, in order to understand and make a full impact on the consumer today, one needs to incorporate the features such as hyper-reality, fragmentation and image in the marketing strategy of any company. For example, if the soap is the traditional product, we need to identify the kind of image we create around it. Say, we want to project it as a sensual soap, so the images created around the soap will be fragmented, yet, unified – a flower opening, a drop of water falling into the ocean, a butterfly flapping its wings, a bulb suddenly getting fried etc. All these images, when combined and unified would imply that using the soap would bring a sensual feel to the user, hence making him/her feel sexy. Here, the images are not traditional but fragmented, so as to appease to various senses of a person, as individuals would relate to sensuousness. Then again, the soap itself is not being marketed. Rather, it is the image of sensuousness which is being marketed, keeping the soap in the background. So the consumer’s buying decision would not be based on the soap itself, but the after-feel that using the soap would bring to the consumer – the feel of sensuousness. Thus, all of the concepts mentioned above have been successfully employed. It may hence surmise to say that in post-modernist era the saying “sell the sizzle, not the steak” is most apt (Firat, Venkatesh & Dholakia, 1994).
Firat, A.F., & Venkatesh, A., 1993. Postmodernity: The Age of Marketing. International Journal of Research in Marketing. 111. p.227.
Firat, A.F., Dholakia, N., & Venkatesh, A., 1994. Marketing in a Postmodern World. European Journal of Marketing. 29(1), p.40.
Firat, A. F., Sherry, J. F., & Venkatesh, A., 1994. Postmodernism, Marketing and the Consumer. International Journal of Research in Marketing. 11, p.311.
Hamouda, M. & Gharbi, A., 2013. The Postmodern Consumer: An Identity Constructor? International Journal of Marketing Studies. 5(2), p.41.
Jameson, F. ed., 1983. Postmodernism and Consumer Society. Port Townsend: Bay Press.
Teschl, M., 2007. What Does it Mean to be Decentered? Review of Social Economy. 2. p.195.
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