Pink Sunday

She's laughing at your attempt to purchase something she's wearing.  (Image from Target.com.)

She’s laughing at your attempt to purchase something she’s wearing. (Image from Target.com.)

I like to think that I am fairly unaffected by marketing or consumerist “hype,” but I guess not. Read on…

If you didn’t know, Target announced a limited, one-time collaboration with designer Lilly Pulitzer months ago, and the female internet community has been abuzz ever since. The preppy, beachy line is very popular with Southern college girls, and it’s also the perfect stuff for adult women to wear for beach vacations, cruises, and resort stays. The original Lilly line is cute, colorful, and bold, but it’s also a bit pricey, so people were super-stoked about the afforable Target line.

Personally, I’m not a huge Lilly Pulitzer fan (the floral clothes aren’t really my style), but I’ve bought several small Lilly items over the years for myself and for gifts–stuff like drink cozies, pens, and agendas–so I was interested in the Target collection’s small accessories and home goods. Target released a comprehensive Lilly “lookbook” a few weeks ago and the items were cute, affordable, and fun. Everyone (including me) was getting their wish lists ready and saving their pennies in anticipation for the day of the big launch–Sunday, April 19th.

Well, the big day finally arrived, but…

The Target website crashed, store shelves were cleared out within 5 minutes (literally) of opening, and resale-minded shoppers filled carts with obscene amounts of Lilly merchandise–whole racks of dresses, whole stocks of pillows, etc. Scores of shoppers who had lined up outside in the early hours before the stores opened left empty-handed, crestfallen, and angry. People on social media called it “Pink Sunday”–a frenzy of excited young women–and it looked worse (but briefer) than Black Friday.

This entire scenario is fascinating to me. I spent a lot of time yesterday on news sites and social media, reading the (heated) shopper comments and looking at photos of the loooong lines, empty racks, and grabby resale folks. And I have a very complicated response to all of this:

It makes me wonder: Do companies have an ethical responsibility to match the intensity and breadth of their marketing campaign to the available supply of goods? And do companies have an ethical responsibility to limit the number of items a single person can purchase from a limited collection? Or is all fair in capitalism, especially when the items in question are luxury goods? Floral dresses and swizzle sticks are not needs, after all.

It boggles my mind: It’s amazing how a company can create such intense desires, and with so little–after all, this Target frenzy was sown only by a few pretty photographs online. People saw the photos and just “knew” they wanted this stuff, even though they hadn’t seen it in person, already have closets full of clothes, and Lilly Pulitzer items have been available for purchase since the 1960’s (literally). Sure, the official designer items are pricey, but if you really wanted a little bit of Lilly, you could have planned and saved for a special purchase long ago.

It embarrasses me: I have nothing against fun clothes and disposable income and the occasional impulse buy. We are so fortunate to live in the U.S. where our needs are met and we are free to play. But I’m still embarrassed that I found myself buying into the Lilly + Target hype. I pored over the lookbooks, too, made a list of the few pieces I might be interested in, and even visited a Target on late Sunday morning (everything was gone). And I’m embarrassed by the frantic, emotional portrayal of Pink Sunday on social media. Sure, it’s honest and real, but it’s also embarrassing to young women. It plays into all our bad stereotypes and distracts attention from all the good things we do on Regular Monday through Regular Saturday.

It angers me: Legions of smart, talented people are tasked by companies to research markets, study psychology, and design ads to part us from our money (and our logical reasoning?). These professionals are very good at what they do, and they make it hard to resist their companies’ wares. But what if we used all that talent and power for something else? Like enticing people to make better environmental choices, or to volunteer more, or to travel more?

It confuses me: Why was I so interested in the Lilly + Target stuff, even though I’ve never been interested in buying big Lilly pieces before? Was it the affordability mixed with the scarcity mixed with the hype? I suppose that’s FOMO at its finest–making me really want something I didn’t even imagine wanting before just to be part of the fun!

Sigh. So what can we do to “fight back,” or at least better control our emotional response to these kinds of highly orchestrated temptations? Maybe:

  1. Seek out simple living and non-consumerist inspiration and guidance. See my Blogroll for some of my favorite folks.
  2. Unsubscribe from junk mail and unsubscribe from junk email. Fewer temptations!
  3. Unsubscribe from all but my favorite fashion and lifestyle bloggers on social media. Or follow only one or two at a time. After all, they get tons of merchandise for free, present a highly-edited view of their lives, and it’s their business to create desire for their stuff!
  4. Have a bigger and better financial goal. It’s easier to bypass the small purchases when you remind yourself that you’re saving for an awesome vacation or paying off a nagging debt.
  5. Don’t shop for entertainment, or when highly emotional (sad/angry), or when hungry/bored.

Sigh. I already do most of these things, but I STILL would have liked to see the Lilly + Target pieces in person, and maybe buy one or two items depending on the quality. The next time I buy cat food at Target, I’ll keep my eyes open for any returned items.  🙂

In what clever marketing ploys have you found yourself ensnared? Please tell me I’m not the only one…

– Angela

P.S. Target says that there are no plans to restock and that they are learning from this experience.

P.P.S. Interestingly, my favorite bracelet is actually a heavy (fake) gold bangle from Lilly that I received as a FREE gift with a small online purchase. I’ve worn it so much that the finish is wearing off!

P.P.P.S. Why am I so basic?! 🙂

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