Six Myths About American Consumerism That Have Nothing to Do With the Actual Facts

A quick history of American consumerism might seem an odd thing to relate to our current economy, but it is a fact. During the industrial revolution (and the subsequent rapid development of the middle class) American consumers went from being a happy lot that went to church on Sundays to a raucous and demanding lot that would buy anything and everything the came their way, on a short-term basis at that. American consumerism, in short, transformed America. Fact number two: during the Great Depression (1929 - Herbert Hoover's first term), production, efficiency and manufacturing had declined so significantly that in order for the American economy to survive, it had to go back to the drawing board. Again, American consumerism was at work.

The Great Depression spawned a third myth about American consumerism: that it was a fad that would soon be forgotten. Instead, it became a necessary tool for helping Americans pull themselves out of the hole created by the Great Depression. Fact number three: consumerism did help pull the United States out of the hole. The post-consumerism campaign "is promoting this intriguing question" regardless of the answer: do I have enough stuff?

The Great Depression also spawned yet another myth about American consumerism: that it was a wasteful practice that harmed the environment badly. Fact number four: consumerism didn't hurt the environment at all. It instead made it easier for people to get things done. Fact number five: American consumerism is big business, which means it supports many good jobs in this country. Fact number six: American consumerism is as popular today as it was in Hoover's day.

Now here we are in the 80s. Does anyone believe that American consumerism has tanked? No! In fact, we are still buying things like cars and televisions and we live in an age of mass production. American consumerism is alive and well, and has never been stronger.

But what does this mean for you? If you want to do business in the United States, it behooves you to get used to American culture, including the way Americans think about spending. When the American economy was in a tailspin, it became important to appeal to middle-class citizens and convince them that they'd spend money if they had an assurance that they were buying a good product. Now that the economy is bouncing back, you have to appeal to the wealthy, but don't lose touch with the middle class.

You have to keep your eye on the prize - whatever you're selling. You have to appeal to the masses not just the elite, but to everyone who can buy something. You have to be willing to say no and express confidence that the market will find a buyer for whatever it is you're selling. Otherwise you'll go nowhere.

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