In The New York Times Magazine: The Layaway

A new installment, for an old form of payment.

This week in Consumed, the layaway plan at KMart and Sears:

Kmart has struggled for years to change its image as the has-been retailer competing with more up-to-date rivals like Wal-Mart and Target, so hyping such a musty, old-school service seems risky, to say the least. But times have changed, Aiello says. “When we talked to customers, they gave us a lot of credit,” he says. “They didn’t see it as tired or a throwback. They saw it as a really great solution.” And not just fixed-budget consumers, he asserts, but also “more affluent people who see it as a risk-free way to get something while it’s in stock, at the price they want to pay.” At Sears, he adds, layaway’s comeback was a direct result of consumers simply asking for it.

Red the column in the November 30, 2008, issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

“Letters should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, Magazine, The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. The e-mail address is All letters should include the writer’s name, address and daytime telephone number. We are unable to acknowledge or return unpublished letters. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.”

You’ll buy anything? Good for you! You’re stoking American innovation!

One last thing before we* head out for the long weekend, a weekend potentially including holiday shopping:

I read this article in The Economist, about whether or not the U.S. is falling behind in innovation. The guy who makes that case the U.S. still has innovation advantages makes several interesting arguments, but the one that most intrigues me is this:

The extraordinary willingness of its consumers to try new things. Mr Bhidé insists that such “venturesome consumption” is a vital counterpart to the country’s entrepreneurial business culture.

That’s definitely something I’m going to look into. It’s a pretty fascinating argument, given that everybody’s talking about The New Frugality and everything. Could it be that America’s much-questioned (including by me) relationship to consumption is actually our secret weapon??

A more serious follow-up on this to come. (Among other things, seems to Americans are perfectly willing to buy innovations — or novelties — regardless of what country they come from.) Your thoughts appreciated.

[* When I say “we,” mean “possibly you.” The Murketing Organization does not observe holidays. Nor does it go shopping for holiday gifts, as its non-gift-receiving friends will attest.]

Do not skip this post: The 48 Hour T-Shirt Is Coming…!

NOTE: [Especially if you’re coming to this link from Coolhunting: The first T is available NOW (until 10 a.m. eastern 12/3), go here. Or if you’re too late for that be notified of the next one by signing up here, or just checking back at]

Ladies and gentlemen … friends and enemies … readers and passers-by:

The Murketing Organization is extremely excited to announce The 48-Hour T-shirt project. (Download colorful and informative flier here.)

This project involves the creation of three T-shirts, each by a talented up-and-coming student designer. Each T will be for sale for precisely 48 hours, exclusively via

T-shirts will be revealed and announced and made available for purchase on Monday December 1; Monday December 8; and Monday December 15.

Each design is inspired by actual academic research related to consumer behavior. That’s right! It’s a lesson in consumer behavior — and you can consume it! Ironic? Hypocritical? Or … fiendishly clever?

You decide. –> All T’s priced at this incredibly reasonable and affordable figure: $18.

I’ve seen the designs, and they’re all awesome. Stop by on the dates mentioned above, or sign up here to be notified when each design is revealed:

[ List services by Dada Mail ]

[Be sure to check your junk/spam folder — this is a double opt-in list setup, so there’s a confirmation step.]

Read all the details after the jump. But know this: All (100%) of the profits go to the student designers listed above.

The 48-Hour T-Shirt Project is proudly sponsored by The Murketing Organization, and Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are.

Additional details as follows:

Read more

Flickr Interlude

Tabula Rasa Consumerata, originally uploaded by tnachtrab.

[Join and contribute to the Murketing Flickr group]

Query to those who read Murketing via RSS: pr0n-spam problems?

A friend of the site who reads via NetNewsWire dropped me a line yesterday to say that a whole bunch of unsavory terms (and, he pointed out, at least one line from Shakespeare) were appearing at the end of the Murketing feed — some sort of porn-spam thing.

I keep an eye on my own feed via a different reader, so I hadn’t been aware of this, and nobody else has mentioned it.

Are those of you reading via RSS seeing anything similar?

Apparently this might be one explanation. My tech team (which is me) is looking into the matter, but if you have anything to report, please let me know, it will help my troubleshooting greatly. Thanks!

And obviously, apologies and so on if anything in the feed was jarringly offensive lately. (I mean anything outside of my actual posts, which I realize can be offensively lame, but that’s different.)

More on bands and brands

I don’t know much about The Fray. But when they cut a deal with ABC, they are not kidding around. Not only did they debut their newest single on [edit: a promo for Lost during — see comments] Grey’s Anatomy (“Viewers will be directed to, where they can find a three-minute version of the clip as well as a link to iTunes; there they can buy the single, which goes to radio the next day”), Billboard reports:

The partnership between ABC and the Fray … also includes an agreement for the band to appear on the American Music Awards, “Good Morning America” and the outdoor concert series on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” ABC will use “You Found Me” as the promo song for this season of “Lost,” and discussions are underway to use the band’s music on sister channel ESPN during the height of football season.

Wow. I guess somebody still believes network TV can move product!

[Via Songs For Soap.]

Does your brand have what it takes to be an instantly recognized insult?

I was amused by one bit of an AIM exchange that Jeff Staple reproduced on his Arkitip blog, between himself and somebody at Apple. The subject was the new Blackberry, which Staple was thinking of buying. Apple guy, who was appalled, replied in part:

uv tried typing on it? there’s fundamentals w/ just design philosophies….the haptic feedback screen and push down click/screen isn’t anything new…it’s cool that they’re trying to push it on their end tho…but…it’s like reebok dude….some shit is yeah…ok, i can live with…looks ok. but, at the end of the day its just………reebok.

Pretty much a bummer for the folks at Reebok to read that, I would think.

In The New York Times Magazine: Seinfeld reruns

The selling — and reselling, and reselling — of a show that ended a decade ago.

This week The New York Times Magazine has a special issue about “Screens,” and Consumed approaches this theme with a column about … Seinfeld reruns.

Fluttering along in this blizzard of the new, there is the not-new, the still-with-us, the vintage, the classic . . . the old. Sitcom reruns, for instance, angle to keep entertaining us, over and over, and profitably. It is in that context that the “Seinfeld” promotional bus tour concluded in Las Vegas this weekend — a 30-city marketing gimmick for a show that went off the air a decade ago.

Read the column in the November 23, 2008 issue of the Times Magazine, or here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

“Letters should be addressed to Letters to the Editor, Magazine, The New York Times, 620 Eighth Avenue, 6th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. The e-mail address is All letters should include the writer’s name, address and daytime telephone number. We are unable to acknowledge or return unpublished letters. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.”

Flickr Interlude

fran, originally uploaded by John Gusky.

Caption says: “austin texas. she used to sit on the roof of a hamburger stand, but sadly, a storm blew her over.”

[Join and contribute to the Murketing Flickr group]

Dept. of Random

Josh Rubin of Coolhunting fame has crossed over from chronicler to creator with his first product: Freehands, gloves with a fold-back thumb to let you text in the cold…

Abe Burmeister of Abstract Dynamics fame has launched Outlier: clothing for cycling in the city; check it out, you urban cyclers …

Deep Glamour interview Debbie Milman; I thought I’d added Deep Glamour to the linkroll, but hadn’t, so I’m adding it now under Design/Style/Aesthetics, and adding Milman’s site too, while I’m at it. (I wish DG would add its “Quick Links” to its RSS feed.) … More fresh links on the roll coming soon…

Krink gets fresh attention from Core77 and The Dieline. Feb 24, 2008 Consumed on Krink here. …

The Buddha Machine’s new version gets attention from Boing Boing, and Disquiet has a quite good Q&A with the device’s co-creator; July 29, 2007 Consumed on earlier version of Buddha Machine here

Ad Age‘s always-interesting Marketing 50 came out this week, and here are some of the entries that caught my eye: Flip Video (May 25, 2008 Consumed on Flip here); P&G’s Pur Flavor Options, which I’ll have to look into, let me know if you have thoughts; Honest Tea (July 3, 2005 Consumed on Honest Tea here; related Murketing post here); Vitaminwater (August 22, 2004 Consumed here); Rihanna umbrellas, which I mentioned on Murketing and probably should have written about in Consumed, but another part of the Times had already sort of covered it; and Carol’s Daughter, a brand I’ve eyed for a long time and considered writing about, but I’ve never quite been convinced; have to give it a fresh look….

Just Looking

Creepy Crawly Dinner Plate, by Foldedpigs, via The Storque.

Flickr Interlude

[Join and contribute to the Murketing Flickr group]

To Do in NYC: Contrabrand lecture

Friend of Murketing Sonia Katyal will be speaking at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts next week:

In her talk, based on her forthcoming book from Yale Press, Contrabrand, Katyal will focus on the intersection of art, advertising, and intellectual property within the First Amendment, and to show how the law has shifted in response to accord with the constitutional challenges the branding movement has created….

Katyal will explore how brands occupy our everyday existence, as well as explain the massive cultural shift that is being played out in countless courtrooms across America, where ordinary consumers and artists have been sued by corporations for their anti-branding activities….

More here.

Monday, November 24, 2008: 6-8pm ( reception at 5:30)
VLA, 1 East 53rd Street, NY, NY 10022 (auditorium)
Artist/Student: $10 for VLA members, $15 non-members
Legal Professional: $100 for VLA members, $125 non-members

48-Hour T-Shirt

So, uh, this news about a forthcoming Murketing Organization project got out a little before I was prepared.

But … on the off chance you’ve made your way here from that Core77 blog post, and you want to be alerted when the first offering is made, please enter your email address below to join the hastily-assembled mailing list. (And check your junk folder and all that — it’s a double opt-in thing.)

[ List services by Dada Mail ]

All you need to know for now is that the project is structured in such a way that I don’t make a dime off it. Okay? More about it here on at a later date.

Buying out?

A friend passes along this announcement from a trend-declaration firm with its predictions for 2009. At the top of the list:

Buying Out — Motivated by a trifecta of dire economic pressures, changing sustainability beliefs and a growing indie aesthetic, leading-edge consumers are redefining what it means to consume, from upcycling to victory gardening to the radical rethinking of household finances.

Hm. As the author of a book called Buying In, I’m not sure how to take that trend title.

But the truth is, one of the primary goals of Buying In is to educate consumers about both the commercial persuasion industry, and their own behavior, hopefully leaving the reader in a place where s/he can make better decisions — and, in fact, to redefine what it means to consume. So I’m interested to hear about newfound interest in things like upcycling and victory gardens (the latter being something I actually alluded to in this book-related essay).

I am not, however, particularly certain that such change is afoot, or at least not in a particularly widespread way.

I’m a little more convinced by Penelope Green’s take on how consumers are adjusting their spending in this article from today’s Times. Here’s an interesting bit of that:

When Best Buy announced its latest sales figures last month, the company reported “an unprecedented drop in consumer buying of items like flat-screen televisions,” said Ori Brafman, a business expert and an author, with his brother, Rom, of “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior,” out since June from Doubleday Business. “But when Wal-Mart released its report last week, there was a surprise. Consumers had increased their flat-screen purchases. Somehow, because Wal-Mart feels like a bargain store, shoppers who have deprived themselves of luxury items elsewhere rationalized their purchases at Wal-Mart as ‘getting a good deal,’ ” Mr. Brafman continued. “Granted, flat-panel TV’s at Wal-Mart might run a little cheaper than elsewhere, but no financial adviser would include one on his or her list of Items to Buy During Tough Times.”

And another:

Kathy Peel, a Dallas-based family manager (that is, a life coach whose niche is training families to run their homes like businesses), said that incidences of feckless budgeting and bad math seem to be on the rise, at least judging from the reports of coaches trained in her system. Leslie McKee, a Peel-trained family manager in Pittsburgh, has noticed a pattern of “people signing up for discount stores that sell in bulk and over-purchasing ‘bargains’ that are so enormous they will not live long enough to use the item,” she said. “Then they call me and spend more money to help them organize it all into mini-malls inside their homes.”

Anyway, it’s worth reading the whole article. And of course if you have thoughts on what’s changing in our consumer habits — particularly what’s short-term and what’s likely to be more lasting — I’d love to hear them.

Are we, in fact, redefining what it means to consume? Or making short-term, reactive adjustments?