Monday, March 5, 2012

Make friends with Bobos in Paradise.

           I'm glad I got around to reading David Brooks' book, Bobos in Paradise. It's about today's upper class, and it's a real upper.

           Among other things, Brooks writes of the young elite's Code of Financial Correctness. Here's Rule #2:"It's perfectly acceptable to spend lots of money on anything that is 'professional quality' even if it has nothing to do with your profession."

           He mentions all the jackets they buy that are capable of protecting us on Mount Everest. Even if they're not going to college to become a sherpa, they have one of these expedition jackets. Brooks also talks about how, instead of a $29 toaster, they bring home $300 industrial toasting systems.  Or, instead of an $11 hoe at Ace Hardware, they prefer the $55 version at the gourmet hardware store.

           I always wondered about the "Professional Grade" advertising campaign the GMC Truck has been running the last few years. The idea was the result of research by my former account planner Ilana Budanitsky, when she was at McCann Worldwide in New York. Brooks put it in context for me. Financial Correctness.

           Now you're ready for Rule #3: "You must practice the perfectionism of small things." Brooks points out that "nobody will accuse you of getting to be too big for your britches if you devote fanatical attention to small household items" such as the right pasta strainer, the distinctive doorknob, or one of those ingenious new corkscrews. Surely you know people who are into this.

           Here's something marketing people have to be aware of. In Rule #7, Brooks says the educated elite prefer stores that don't dwell on anything so vulgar as prices. They're not visible. But these customers do want to be able to discourse on what they buy.  That's why they like catalogs that describe the Celtic roots of tweed, and why the best lambswool is sheared in the first six months of a lamb's life.

            They also like catalogs that don't look like catalogs, and look like underground fashion magazines.

            I really think you should read "Bobos in Paradise". You should know more about the people Brooks calls "bourgeois bohemians". They spend a of money and may be your best customers. Then you can make a lot of money and become a curator of flea market paintings and become your friends' go-to expert on their ironic emanations.


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