Wednesday, November 27, 2019

'Meaning Out'

A  Catholic University professor writes in the Current Diagnosis column of the Peace Weekly on the recent neologism in Korean society on letting it all show: 'Meaning out' (coming out ) the expressing of your tastes and values— an activity that reveals your beliefs through consumption.

In a collectivist society, one is careful when revealings one's ideas to others. For ideas and behaviors that differ from group norms, are often viewed as wrong rather than simply different. We often identify 'difference' with 'wrong' instead of just a different opinion. It is more natural to say "our school" instead of "my school" and "our country" instead of "my country".

However, with the advent of individualism, which emphasizes individual independence and responsibility young consumers are changing. They do not hide their own beliefs and opinions that differ from the group norm but reveal it through behaviors in consumption. This is called the 'meaning out-trend' a coming out that often reveals gender identity. 

They wear t-shirts with the slogan they want to share, buy bags, shoes, hats, and tumblers with their slogans, and develop their own personal logos. Some even tattoo letters or drawings on their bodies. In the early days, environmental protection, animal welfare, third world support and vegetarian practice expressed certain beliefs, but are now spreading to expressions on social, political,  controversial and personal beliefs.

Consumption behavior reflects the values and beliefs that consumers value in every society. Today, 'meaning-out trends' are often upgraded to active boycotts or buying campaigns to bring together people with the same opinions and values and to change the thinking and behavior of others through the media. 

The recent box office hit: Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is a feminist film, mentioned by the writer as an example of a movement to get people to see the movie. Young women bring their boyfriends to see it and get people talking about the place of women in South Korea's male-dominated society. Movements of this type where you select what you want to support by apps and scanning bar codes continue to spread among the young.

The spread of the 'meaning out-trend' is positive in that the social acceptability of the 'differences' of a 'minority' in our society will increase. In addition, much of the personal media that can express the opinions and tastes of individuals, such as blogs now extends to SNS. This trend is especially focused on Millennials and Generation Z, (the newest generation born between 1995 and 2015) who have a strong desire for self-expression and are good at using the media.

Meanwhile, marketing using consumer's beliefs increases. A company that produced smartphone cases and bracelets to donate to comfort women grandmothers, was able to boost sales and increase brand awareness as stories of celebrity purchases spread. However, it was criticized as the situation was intentionally used for marketing purposes, and posed a problem for the CEO because of public criticism.

Consumers need products and services as tools to express their beliefs, and someone has to play the role of producing and selling them. In other words, companies and consumers need each other for each other's purposes. Companies should not forget that respecting consumer's beliefs and meeting their needs is the purpose of their social existence. If they abuse this relationship they will find that the consumers like ghosts will run to social media and make this known to all.

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