Monday, August 11, 2008

Rob Walker's "Buying In"

Rob Walker writes the weekly column “Consumed,” a blend of business journalism and cultural anthropology, for The New York Times Magazine. Previously, he created and wrote the popular “Ad Report Card” column for Slate, and he has contributed to a wide range of publications, from Fast Company and Fortune to The New Republic and AdBusters.

He applied “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Buying In falls in the middle of a story about the unlikely comeback of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. It happens that this section is one that a lot of readers (and reviewers) seem to react to, and I’ve actually read from this page on the couple of occasions when I’ve had opportunities to do readings.

Buying In is about our relationship to branding, or really to material culture, and how it’s changing in the 21st century. Contrary to the widespread theory that the contemporary consumer is brandproof, I make the case that branding is more deeply entwined in the culture, and in our lives, than ever – and that on some level, we’ve embraced it. I also try to suggest ways "the secret dialogue between what we buy and who we are" might be changed ... by us.

The PBR story is given as an example of consumer basically inventing a fresh meaning for an old brand out of nowhere. As it says on page 99: “At first, even the people at Pabst – which had barely advertised for more than 20 years – were at a loss.”

I’m okay with page 99 representing the book, but I guess that’s mostly because I think it’s a spot where I’m starting one of the smaller tales that I hope add up and built toward to the book’s overall idea. I also think it’s a spot that maybe makes the reader want to turn to page 100. Which I suppose is the real goal of any page 99.
Read an excerpt from Buying In, and learn more about the author and his work at Rob Walker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue