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Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Photo Essay: Boys’ varsity tennis sweeps Archie Williams in MCAL semifinals
Molly Gallagher April 18, 2024

On Wednesday, April 17, the boys’ varsity tennis team dominated their match against Archie Williams in the semi-finals of the Marin County...

Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Photo Essay: Girls’ varsity lacrosse dominates Branson in a sentimental senior day matchup
Emma Rosenberg and Penelope Trott April 18, 2024

On April 18, the girls’ varsity lacrosse team battled against the Branson Bulls in a blowout senior day matchup. Prior to the start of...

 embracing his coach senior Auden Braden celebrates his final MCAL regular season game
Boys’ volleyball dominates Marin Catholic on Senior Night
Richard Byrne April 18, 2024

On April 17th, the boys’ varsity volleyball team faced off against Marin Catholic (MC) in a Marin County Athletic League (MCAL) game. The...

The consumer craze: Exploring social media’s role in overconsumption and the curious case of the Stanley Cup

On Jan. 3, the “Starbucks x Stanley Quencher” was released to consumers. The hot pink, thick-handled social media sensation had customers swarming into Target when the stores opened. Some spent hours outside in the cold, waiting desperately to be the first to enter. Although Stanley only recently collaborated with Starbucks, the Stanley Cup itself is nothing new.

Stanley Cups date back to 1913 and have had a historically male consumer base by virtue of their marketing specifically to working men for outdoor activities. Recently, the cup grew immensely popular amongst primarily young females through social media. The Stanley Cup is not the only trendy item that has suddenly overtaken the world; other examples of items that have achieved rapid virality include the Rare Beauty blush, Adidas Sambas and the TikTok Shop Wrangler bags.

What caused this dramatic shift in consumer taste? The answer lies not in these items alone but in their social media marketing tactics, which teens are particularly susceptible to.

Economists have dubbed this phenomenon the “Influencer Economy” or the “Creator Economy” over the past decade. Companies prioritize using influencer outreach to increase their sales in this system. The expansion of this financial scene is attributed to Gen Z’s attachment to the idealized and relatable influencer. 

 Senior Francesca Wood is one of many teenagers affected by this phenomenon. She described her experience purchasing products to pursue a lifestyle similar to that of her favorite content creators.

“I’ll see a pretty person on TikTok who has the fashion sense I like and want to have. They’ll say, ‘This top is perfect for having this effect on your body,’ or ‘You need to wear this kind of jewelry with this neckline.’

And suddenly, I’m thinking, ‘Wow! I really want to buy three shirts with that [same] neckline and jewelry to match it,’” Wood said.

Wood shares a similar perspective to other teens on social media. According to a Santa Clara University study by James Laeder, social networking services (SNS) are at the forefront of a paradigm shift in societal communications. Laeder found people often lean on SNSs due to an innate human desire for belonging. Marketers take advantage of teenage anxieties and turn trends into an industry through social media-based advertising.

Although social media allows advertisements to reach a widespread audience, wanting something is different than actually buying it. Sophomore Sam Cohen recognized the effects of social media marketing and commented on ways he navigates the inundation of sponsorships online.

“I’ll see stuff [online] I like and think, ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ but am I going to buy it? Probably not. [For example,] I’m not going to spend $70 on shoes, even if that’s considered a good price,” Cohen said.

However, Cohen’s experience tends to be the exception among most teenagers at Redwood. In a recent Bark survey, 68 percent of students said they had purchased a product after seeing it on social media. Following Laeder’s findings, corporations target teens on SNSs by acknowledging their impulsivity and susceptibility to trends. Economics teacher Ann Tepovich expanded on this concept.

Infographic by Linnea Koblik

“There’s a portion of economics known as behavioral economics, which looks at the psychology of economic decision-making. They study what causes people to be ‘influenced’ and make ‘impulsive purchases,’” Tepovich said. “Teenagers are more impressionable, so influencers are the marketers that rely on you being impulsive and hoping you’re not going to think [your purchases] through.”

Influencers are now a common way to encourage teenage consumption. According to Maura Smith, the senior Vice President of Paternize, an online marketing partnership platform, influencers can be characterized into three categories based on their audience size: Nano Influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers, Micro Influencers with 10,000 to 100,000 followers, and Mega or Celebrity Influencers with 100,000 to 1,000,000 followers.

Many teens with public accounts on social media are considered Nano influencers. Typically, the teen will post with the product, tag the company and encourage their peers to buy it in the caption using a personal promotion code for the company. Drew Markovich is a senior who runs a TikTok page with nearly 30,000 thousand followers, born out of his passion for long-distance running. Since this account gained popularity, several companies have approached Markovich to promote running-related products to his audience. 

“Certain brands will offer you a free product to post on your page to promote it,” Markovich said. “[Or] they’ll pay you a flat rate per video. There are a lot of new promotions going on, specifically on TikTok with the TikTok Shop. You have to post a video with that product within a certain amount of days, and then you get a commission rate [depending] on how many people buy it through your link.”

This type of marketing, using peers as influencers, does not only affect teenagers but the greater population. Mark Chhabria is a Redwood alumnus and coordinator of the Marin Green Business Program, which promotes local environmental business leaders. Chhabria works to address the long-term environmental effects of this new trend of consumerism.

As branded, the Stanley Cup is a coveted reusable water bottle that replaces single-use plastic cups, seemingly ideal for an environmentally conscious consumer partaking in a seemingly well-intentioned trend. However, Chhabria argues the opposite effect has taken place.

“The idea behind using those reusable cups is really great. I think it originated with very pure intentions and concerns about the environment. But the problem is if you’re buying these giant, reusable cups [frequently], and they’re made of metal, [which involves] mining, then you’re using a tremendous amount of energy, child labor, water and [other resources],” Chabbria said.

Illustration by Ava Stephens

Moreover, once companies establish brand loyalty with a customer, even if that trend dies, the company will simply produce the next “viral” product, allowing this cycle of mass production to continue. Tepovich discussed the process company marketing teams employ to sustain such consumerism trends. 

“When a brand becomes too popular, people will kind of walk away from it because everybody’s got it, so [consumers don’t] want to have it anymore. ‘Everybody’s wearing Sambas, so I don’t want to wear those.’ It’s a fine line [for companies]: ‘How do you keep a brand exclusive but also sell a lot to make money off of it?’” Tepovich said. “Companies know that loyalty wears out in particular products. But if they keep coming out with a new and improved, or a different product, you associate good things with that particular brand.”

Not all hope for a more financially and environmentally conscious modern consumer market is lost.

As often the target audience for these products, teens have the power to challenge the marketing assumptions companies have already made for teens. Tepovich described an easy method for limiting the intake of unnecessary products. 

“Part of behavioral economics is trying to figure out, ‘How do we get people to be less impulsive?’ ‘How do we be more rational?’ There’s this rule called the 72-hour rule: If you see something you want, walk away from it, don’t buy it, think about it. If, after 72 hours, you still want it, buy it. It’s an interesting experiment people can do with themselves to try and control the impulse buying, which is what these influencers are trying to get you to do,” Tepovich said.

Not only does the 72-hour rule interrupt big business objectives, but it saves money and reduces environmental damage. Maintaining control over impulsive urges might just be the key to combating today’s overconsumption trends.

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About the Contributors
Emily Hitchcock
Emily Hitchcock, Web Designer
Emily Hitchcock is a junior and a first-year member of the Redwood Bark as the web designer. She enjoys running, spending time with her friends and listening to music.
Nadia Massoumi
Nadia Massoumi, Opinion Editor
Nadia Massoumi is a junior at Redwood High School and is an opinion editor for the Bark. She enjoys listening to music, traveling with her family and friends, and baking red velvet cakes.