The Thinking Consumer: Ironies and Conundrums

*Warning: Heavy post ahead*

Today I’m exploring my attitudes towards my favourite clothing brand.

The need to do this arose from dissonant feelings I am having towards it. This post was my way to organize my thoughts and explore my feelings.

Consider this a thinking consumer review.

Favourite clothing brand

Mango

How I feel about it

I have been a loyal Mango customer since they first opened a shop in my home-town when I was 15. It has been almost 15 years now and I don’t plan to stop any time soon. I consistently feel their clothes were made to fit me, even as my personal style evolves.

They tend to be on the pricey side for me but that’s ok. You know I don’t shop often so I simply make lists of the things I want and get them on sales or through their outlet shop (one of their best features!).

From basics to more special pieces, Mango is always my first (and often only) stop.

T-shirt, dress and leggings by Mango

Some of their items are very high quality. I have items that I bought over 10 years ago and they are still great. Granted, they’re seasonal items (Winter wool skirts, a Summer dress…) but I get a lot of wear out of them, so it’s great they have lasted so long. Yes, I am one of those people who still cares for how long clothes will last!

Yes, after this photo I did realize wide belts were not for me! Nevermind that! Just wanted to show you this skirt which I’ve had for about 8 years now; turtle-neck and belt also from Mango (3 and 2 years respectively); Skirt and shirt still 2 of my Winter favs

Their jeans are also quite long wearing. I’ve noticed they start wearing off around the “2 year of frequent wash&wear” mark, but never before that.

The only issue I have with their jeans is the inconsistency with the sizes. It has happened that two pairs of the same model, bought one season apart, had a really perfect fit on one pair but too big on the other (and no, nothing to do with loss of weight; they were both on rotation at the same time). It pays to buy their jeans in store (which I usually don’t!).

Mango Jeans (2012)

In recent years, I have started buying other items from Mango, such as sunglasses. These I buy from the Outlet shop for a fraction of their original price and try to keep at least one for regular wearing and one replacement, at all times. For as long as they make this model, I won’t buy sunglasses anywhere else.

I also always get my coats and trenches from Mango. I have always been very happy with the quality and how long they last. My current Winter coats have endured the long English Winters, with the oldest one currently in use being 5 years old and the youngest one 2 years old (a military style green coat with an asymmetrical cut which has a perfect fit for my figure).

Some of my current Mango outerwear: blazer (bought 2007); Black wool 3 quarter length coat (bought 2007/2008); military style coat (bought December 2009); trench coat (bought December 2009); black winter jacket (bought November 2007)

For me it’s simply a well rounded shop where I feel comfortable buying any item of clothes that I need, and most accessories (belts, foulards, sunglasses, bags). The only thing I haven’t bought from them were shoes (I’ve mentioned this before but I mostly buy shoes made in Portugal and in local shops).

Skirt, belt, t-shirt and cardigan by Mango (skirt is about 5 or 6 years, seen here in February 2011)

Obviously, Mango doesn’t offer anything that I wouldn’t be able to find in Zara, for instance. And, of course, I also shop in other places. But, as I said above, Mango is usually my first stop.

The only reason I can think for this, relates to the fact that I didn’t have very good clothing experiences before Mango showed up in my town. After it did, I didn’t shop anywhere else for three years (between the age of 15 and until I went to Uni to Lisbon).

For those three years, my teenage brain was developing like mad. It seems likely that the positive experiences I had around Mango were deeply imprinted at that stage.

Being able to wear jeans that I felt good in, but weren’t too expensive, made such a change in my life, particularly in the way I saw my self.

All the kids wore Levy’s but I just felt it was too expensive to ask my parents (who had two other daughters!). Plus, before Mango, I wore a lot of stuff from my older sister. She’s 8 years older…

I remember feeling really uncomfortable in those clothes, simply because they were so different from everyone else’s. This isn’t a superficial concern. As a young kid, feeling and looking different from your peers can have an enormous impact on your social well-being and how you construe your self.

Mango simply allowed me to have a little bit of a wardrobe update, while not feeling that it was a big burden on my parents. The other kids kept buying their Levy’s but, because I was getting my clothes from this cool new shop, I felt they were now the outdated ones.

I think this change, at that time in my life, was extremely important. It allowed me to feel confident and autonomous in my later teenage years. I started feeling like I was my own person. I didn’t feel the need to impress anyone or belong to any “cool” groups.

It’s interesting how such a little thing as being able to feel comfortable in your clothes when you’re a teenager, can have such a strong impact on how you see yourself!

It’s already enough not to be able to feel comfortable in your own skin at that age! No need to add clothes to the burden!!!

So, for me, Mango took that burden away. It is, obviously, a very emotional connection.

Skirt and top from Mango (1 January 2010)

That said, I am very glad there was no internet like there is today. All I had from Mango was the catalogue I would pick up from the store. There were no videos, no website, no twitter, no instagram, no bloggers, no polyvore competitions

Had there been, I am not sure I would have felt “welcomed” by the MNG bunch.

The truth is, the more I hear of Mango through their social media outlets, the less I like them.

Don’t get me wrong, still love the clothes. I just realized that I really do not like the way they’re marketed.

Here I must note that I think Mango is the European brand that makes better use of social media. Whoever they hired to manage their online marketing strategies, knows what they’re doing. They are extremely active on pinterest, facebook, twitter, and they understand that each one of these mediums has its own “voice”; they have their own blog, their monthly newsletter, and even online series where they show you different outfit options through a fiction storyline; they have identified the “it” bloggers of Europe and have engaged with them; they have spotted the trend of “street style” and encourage young women who wear their clothes to share their outfits with the community of MNGrs…They are very internet savvy, that I must say.

The thing is, with so much exposure, I started realizing that I do not identify with the image they want to convey at all.

Mango’s social media managers make me feel uncomfortable, out of place, and unworthy of Mango’s clothes. Their marketing strategies are arrogant, ageist and elitist, as if MNG’s clothes are made to be worn by a certain type of crowd, of a certain age and in a certain way. If you’re not in that crowd, you’re just like a sad little groupie chasing after the star’s sweat.

Maybe I just developed a disproportionate feeling of entitlement regarding Mango and now, seeing that I am not part of their target consumer group – which appears to be limited to 20 year old model and/or fashionista, Ibiza party girls – I feel rejected.

I simply do not identify with those images and messages at all and feel completely excluded. It makes me quite sad.

A Mango girl from head to, well, almost, to toe my entire adult life but, it appears, by a complete mistake!

I am the freak anomaly in Mango’s perfectly designed marketing plan. I’m the one who fell in through the cracks in the system!

And isn’t it ironic?

I’m just glad Mango was there when I most needed it, without any interferences from marketing campaigns that would have pressed a complete different image in my teenage brain. Instead of the autonomous, self-accepting person it helped me be, it would have had me belief that there are special people in this world whom the rest of us are supposed to emulate.

I know I started by saying that I did not plan to stop being a Mango customer any time soon. But this analysis took me to places I hadn’t been before. After all this reasoning, I am not entirely sure I want to support a brand whose marketing strategies make me feel, today, the complete opposite its clothes did, all those years ago…

Yes, you may suggest I simply ignore them. After all, internet is great for that. I can perfectly choose to un-follow them and that would be it. No more exposure to campaigns that make me feel bad. I can simply continue to merrily go online, pick up the items I want and move along, oblivious and happy. 

I guess ignorance is bliss (and a possible solution to my conundrum).

But see, that’s not the type of consumer I am. Every brand I choose to support with my purchases needs to be 100% in line with how I feel. 

I am at a lost…

What would you do?

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7 thoughts on “The Thinking Consumer: Ironies and Conundrums

  1. I’m not entirely sure I have an answer but I love reading analysis like this one, where you actually start off thinking something and we get to experience your change of heart through each paragraph.

    I guess Mango had its time in your life and did its job while it had to do and now it’s time to find a brand that can give you the same that Mango gave your teenage self back in the day. It makes me think I’m lucky not to have any sort of loyalty towards any brands. I know this sounds hypocritical if you consider I named my cat Zara because I missed the store so much after I moved to NZ. But the truth is, it’s not exactly Zara that I miss. I don’t miss Zara any more than I miss Mango or Pull & Bear or Springfield or any other of the fairly priced stores we have there. I miss the diversity and the choice.

    On a sort of related-but-not-really topic, have you heard of the book Where Am I Wearing? I think you’d find it really interesting. I’ll try to remember to take it along with me next time we meet up. Also, and along the same lines, ever heard of IOU (http://iouproject.com/)? I haven’t managed to part with money for any of their pieces but find the project really interesting.

    Anyway, good post. Food for thought, for sure. 🙂

    • Thanks Vera. I guess this is becoming a bit of a parting process and, psychologically, I’m still in its early stages!

      But you’re right. As a consumer, I feel a lot more evolved than I was 10 or 15 years ago. I definitely care a lot for what my money ends up supporting. This is why I am very careful about the brands I promote with my posts (for instance, you’ll have a hard time finding items in my boards from brands that are over-expensive, over-rated, that promote senseless consumerism and are of dubious ethical standards).

      I haven’t heard of that book but would be keen to read it.

      That IOU project either. Will check it out.

      Again, thanks for reading and for the feedback 🙂

  2. I have no answers but let me tell you one thing… I really liked this topic! I think it’s awesome that you really think about everything that is part of a brand identity.
    I use to work on this – Branding. I always loved to create a character that could represent a brand as a person. But then, in my mind i thought that no one cares about that kind of stuff, no one would value that kind of work… Sometimes i was completely frustrated because of it! Well, now i know you, regular customers (not designers and marketers or people that work in branding) actually think about the brand identity! In this case, it didn’t work because you don’t see yourself in that identity, but at least you noticed the branding work. Sorry, i know this is kind of off topic but it’s just what made me think 🙂

    • No, that’s great! I wish we could talk more about this. It’s really very interesting to have the diverse points of view and I’m happy that it made you think of your work andy see that others might think about it. I think you’ll find that there is a growing trend of “thinking” consumers. 🙂

  3. Interesting post. I was just thinking the other day about how models for many brands look so young. Which I agree – is off-putting to someone who has been a loyal customer for many years. In fact there are certain stores that I will no longer frequent becasue I feel out of place. Why would I, an 29-year old woman want to shop in a store that is marketing towards teens and those in their early twenties? I don’t. And I can’t fathom why a brand would alienate such a large potential clientele to focus in on consumers half my age. Do they really have more cash-flow? Does this really translate into increased sales?

    • Hi Laura! This is exactly what I have been wondering. And I also don’t understand. From a business point of view it simply makes no sense. I am also 29 and certainly have more purchase power now than I did 10 years ago. Maybe their strategy is still based on the (in my opinion, outdated) consumer behaviour perspective that people want to be young forever and therefore if a brand uses images of youth, everyone else will buy simply because they want to stay that way (not that I think that being “young” is restricted to a certain age, anyway!).

      But, as they grow older as a company, why wouldn’t they want to accompany the costumers who have been with them from the start? I guess it is not easy to balance maintaining costumers with attracting new ones. Maybe now they’re simply more focused on attracting new ones. I don’t know but it’s annoying. So now what? I reach 30 and am no longer supposed to be their costumer? That sure seems to be the message they’re sending me…

  4. Pingback: The Mindful Consumer | Fashion pas

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