Marketers target moms armed with smartphones
By Cecilia Kang
Washington Post, 2011-07-19

From Procter & Gamble to AT&T and Pandora,
firms are taking notice that mothers, newly armed with smartphones,
are becoming a new kind of shopping force online.
A decade ago,
these women were single and childless 18- to 34-year-olds
who captured the hearts of Madison Avenue marketing executives
with their voracious consumer appetites.


Spend, Spend, Spend. It’s the American Way.
New York Times Business, 2012-01-15

A new book, “Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves”
(Princeton University Press), offers some insights.
It was written by Sheldon Garon, a Princeton professor
who is not an economist but rather a historian with a sociological bent.


More than any other country, Professor Garon argues,
[the United States] elevates consumer spending to a virtue,
sometimes minimizing saving.
There is even an idea here that it is patriotic to spend, rather than to save.


Professor Garon details an attitude that Americans,
more than people in any other country,
have usually had about spending:
we tend to think it’s O.K. for people to go into debt
to buy gadgets or take vacations.
According to this view,
such activity will stimulate everyone’s imaginations,
and ensure a vibrant economy
with plenty of fresh enterprises and innovations.
Americans even tend to think that debt burdens may not be so bad —
that people in debt work harder to pay it off,
again keeping the economic engine humming.
We are relatively forgiving of personal bankruptcies, too:
they provide a fresh start to allow spending all over again.

IN much of the rest of the world, Professor Garon documents,
this approach has traditionally seemed morally repugnant —
though until the current crisis,
many people worldwide were slowly coming around to the American view.

Governments around the globe have long promoted pro-saving —
that is, anti-spending — campaigns.
Professor Garon notes that many of these campaigns flourished during wars,
when frugality was a necessity to conserve resources.
In World War I and World War II,
government campaigns left a lasting impression
that overspending was immoral and unpatriotic,
and for most countries the campaigns did not stop when the wars ended.


To present an alternative view,
here is an excerpt from a book by Mimi Alford (b. 1943) wherein
she describes her life in the 1950s:

All the WASPy and preppie boxes were checked,
and yet I didn’t feel, growing up, that we were excessively privileged.
This was due in large part to my mother.
She was epically, virtuousically frugal.
She would never consider hiring a carpenter or painter or other craftsman to fix something
if she could do it herself.
By the time I was eight years old [in 1951],
when we left New York City for the farm in New Jersey,
I was well aware of my mother’s “I’ll-do-it-myself” ethos.
It was impossible not to be.
As her first project in our new home,
I had watched her steam off the old, peeling wallpaper in every room,
patch the walls,
and paint them herself.
Then she tackled the fading slipcovers and curtains,
buying fabric and sewing new ones.
She built book cases and refinished old pieces of furniture;
she scraped and painted all the wooden shutters;
she made circular felt skirts for my sisters and me
with appliquéd scenes from Currier and Ives;
she drove endless car pools,
cheered us on at all our school games,
cleaned the house,
cooked our meals,
and tended the chickens and sheep on the farm
(the animals were not pets but sources of food,
though my siblings and I could never stomach the notion of
eating the lambs that grazed on our property).
She was a dynamo of energy and self-sufficiency,
with a domestic skill set that would have made Martha Stewart proud.

This was how she was programmed to behave.
Her ambition in life had been to get married,
raise a brood of well-mannered children,
free her husband of any duties that might interfere with his all-important career,
create a happy, comfortable home,
and manage the family finances so that we never spent more than we had.
In this she wasn’t much different from other moms in our neighborhood
and across America at the time,
although I suspect she was an extreme version of the species.

Back to miscellaneous articles:

Vogue’s September issue: Boosting the spirit and economy in one fell swoop
By Ned Martel
Washington Post, 2012-08-28

At 4 pounds 10 ounces, Vogue’s September issue has weight. Its heft carries some hope, a sign of economic life, a pulse that subverts the flat-lining CBO numbers. This single edition of one magazine suggests that even in bad times, someone is up for a good time.

The fashion magazine announces right there on the cover that it’s putting out “916 pages of spectacular fall fashion for all.”

The operative word is the last one. Everybody’s invited.

If you delve inside this 120th-anniversary issue and play the hyperbolic game of finding the highest price for a single garment, you will doubtless be reminded of some glum moment when money of this kind could have been used to solve a real problem. “Spectacular” is the other keyword. The magazine suggests that you should allow yourself to be transported by spectacle — and the joy ride will cost a mere $5.99.

Here’s a novel thought in this election year: An American institution is prospering, encouraging the wealthy to spend rather than merely be taxed, to reward innovators instead of regulators.


Besides actual clothing, fashion magazines sell ideals and aspirations, which can seem more valuable when economic conditions deem them less affordable. After four years of peril, these titles are all suddenly thriving, from the avant-garde (W has 412 pages) to the moms-and-proms (InStyle at 652).

“The only trend I can say is that
high-end women’s fashion magazines
are doing much better than
magazines as a whole,”

said Steve Cohn, who edits the Media Industry Newsletter.

These magazines make money because they elevate the eye and sometimes the spirit, take the reader someplace special. These fantasy tomes feel a boost during economic distress — like liquor and ice cream and movie ticket sales.

Of Vogue’s 916 pages, 658 are ads. As the magazine’s rate card for advertisers explains, one single page can cost as much as $165,232, though many ads are sold in discount packages.


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