The essay will be critically analysing the role of a virtual blogger and the self-identity of consumers. This essay applies to the concept of consumer consumption, this is the day to day buying activities of individual consumers and how marketing impacts these decisions. According to Siegfried Zepf’s article (Consumerism and identity: Some psychoanalytical considerations, published in 2010) consumers are now building their identity through what they buy, within the article Zepf becomes aware that “identity-building quality of consuming is becoming more dominant.” (Zepf,2010, p151). Youtubers now have a massive impact on the way marketers advertise, vloggers such as Joe Sugg, Zoella and Oli White are a key part of a brands promotional strategy, therefore, it is understandable why these vloggers have such an impact on consumers identities, through gaining the trust of their viewers, they can successfully promote brands and products and according to some sources they may be doing this unethically.
We now live in a world where the media bombard us consumers, and where consumerism is a powerful symbol of capitalist society (Andersen, 2000; Deleuze ; Guattari, 1984; Gidden, 1991). So, it is no surprise that vloggers such as Joe Sugg have such an impact on his viewers self-identity. A vlogger is a blogger; however, their posts are primarily in video form. Joe Sugg is a well-known YouTube ‘celebrity’ with a following of 13.5 million people across three channels, his videos include daily vlogs and gaming videos which promote products to all viewers. His main viewers are young children and young adults, for example his target audience is around 11-19 and it’s a mixed audience. His target market receives increasing attention from advertisers who wish to tap into purchase power and potential adult consumers (Dittmar, 1992; Douglas & Isherwood 1996; Miles, 1998) so there is no surprise that so many companies are paying YouTube stars such as Joe Sugg to promote their products.
For example, a recent example of Joe Sugg promoting a product was in a video where he advertised chubachups lolly pops. As you can see in his videos his target audience is very clear, within his recent videos he has always promoted products and brands for younger adults and children. In his videos he tries to connect with his fans as much as possible by being honest and showing them his day to day life, by gaining the viewers trust he can then use this to his and the advertisers advantage. However, his fans may argue that they consume these products because it is part of their actual self, therefore, the fact that Joe Sugg is using the product or brand has no impact on the their self-identity, it is just who they are. Moreover, some critics do argue that vloggers impact consumers self-identity by creating an ideal-image of the consumer in their mind and vloggers do this by manipulating their viewers trust during their videos. The ideal image is how we would like to be, this is “partly moulded by elements of the consumer’s culture, such as heroes or people depicted in advertising who serve as models of achievement or appearance” (Consumer behaviour: A European Perspective, Solomon el al, 2006).
YouTube has impacted businesses and the way they communicate with customers massively, YouTube’s main audience is the younger generations, especially for videos such as vlogs, as Shane Smith told The Guardian: “Young people, who are most of our audience, are angry, disenfranchised and they don’t like or trust mainstream media outlets. They’re leaving TV in droves, but music and news are the two things that Generation Y in every country are excited about and interested in.” This may explain why so many businesses are turning to vloggers to promote their brand and products. Also, according to the article, the rise of technological advances has enabled interaction and accessibility, the increased importance of trust among “digitally savvy consumers” and the intimate connection that exists between vlogger and viewer. Ways that institutions can look to replicate that is through behind-the-scenes video blogs and “masterclass” clips from big names associated with the venue or company. Therefore, there is no wonder why critics believe that vloggers such as Joe Sugg have an impact on consumers self-identity.
Many psychoanalysts, social and cultural critics argue that in contemporary society consumer culture is where life operates in the imaginary and symbolic sphere of consumption. Consumption is now a central and meaningful practice of our everyday life, individuals decide on their consumption choices based on the personal symbolic meaning as well as the products utility value. Consumers build their identity through consumption, this is known as the self-concept theory, Sirgy defines this as “the beliefs a person holds about his or her attributes, and how he or she evaluates these qualities”. Onkvisit and Shaw (1987) cited in Heath and Scott (1998) that the self-concept is a critical part of consumer behaviour, because many of the decisions made by consumers are influenced by the image individuals have of themselves. (Heath and Scott, 1998). According to Neisser (1993), the self-concept is a very complex structure, because consumers develop a concept of who they are through their interaction with others, or they may even develop a concept through watching vloggers such as Joe Sugg.
For example, a consumer may see Joe Sugg using a product and they may want to be like him and they believe the way to do this is to develop an identity through consuming similar products, this shows that a role of a vlogger such as Joe Sugg has an impact on consumers self-identity because when his viewers see him consuming the product they trust him and consume the product themselves. However, youtubers promoting products have been accused of exploiting younger adults through advertising, and this is causing some youtubers to receive negative media attention which has an effect on their views and therefore sales for the advertisers, an article written by Chris Green, reads that parents are describing vloggers as an “increasing area of concern”, claiming that some of the advertising is not clear to young people who are “very vulnerable” on the difference between editorial and advertising, and this can be misleading for the consumers. According to Mothers’ Union report Bye Buy children, more than two thirds of parents (68%) believe advertising from vloggers is harmful to their children.
As Goldsmith (1999) argues, the self-concept theory is a collection of attitudes that consumers hold towards themselves, he says that self-esteem and self-image are the main parts of the self-concept theory. These are the values with which a person views, and then gives insight into what people are like. Joe Sugg is a role model, for example, in his vlogs he is always with a group of friends and seems to be socially accepted, his fans may believe that to be socially accepted they will need to develop this image, just like their idol Joe Sugg. His audience may begin to consume similar products and carry out similar leisure activities as him to build an image of themselves which is their ideal self. For example, Schiffman and Kanuk (1997) argue, that consumers select products or brands that match images of themselves, which consumers gain these ideas from vloggers such as Joe Sugg.
The self-concept theory is comprised of components of apparent self, ideal self, social self, perceived self and actual self (Burns et al, 1979), people tend to find themselves in their ideal or social self and are trying to follow those personalities, creating a gap between their actual and ideal self, marketers try to focus on consumes ideal self and vloggers such as Joe Sugg who is a role model to his audience may help companies by promoting products for them, this then gives that company an advantage over competitors that may not be promoting products in such a way. According to Solomon (2004),” consumers purchase products that have an affiliation with celebrities”, therefore, consumers personalities do not match with their characteristics. For example, Joe Suggs fans may want to “feel the spirit” of the celebrity, and Solomon (2004) believes this is achievable through the brand they consume. Schiffman and Kanuk (2004), agree with Solomon, they continue to argue that consumers “attribute their personality characteristics with different brands or with different products”, they call this brand personality.
In conclusion, the role of an online vlogger, such as Joe Sugg has an impacted consumers self-identity. As Shaffer (2005) says “we live in the minds of others without knowing it”. This means that consumers always consider what others will think of them during the buying process, therefore, by watching vloggers who come across as an ideal-self, consumers may believe that if they consume similar products, they too will be accepted by wider society and popular. Advertisers have realised this and taken advantage of this by paying vloggers to promote their products instead of putting an advert in a newspaper. The reason for this is because vloggers have built trust with their audience, and this relationship makes them valuable to advertisers. Furthermore, according to Jessica Walker, “if a blogger endorses a product it gives it more weight than if it was just featured in a magazine”. Moreover, this shows that vloggers do have a massive impact in what people consume, but their viewers are mostly made up of younger generations, and this is shaping their self-identity.