I watched yesterday this excellent video on YouTube (in French). At one point, the author explains to us what Sloanism is and how it is related to the rise of the car marketing industry.
Sloanism, also known as “flexible mass production,” refers to the modification of Fordism implemented by Alfred P. Sloan, president of General Motors from 1923, when he offered new models each year, and different makes, models, and prices for different niches in the market. Rather than relying on special-purpose machine tools designed to produce the parts for a single model, as Ford did with the Model T, GM used general-purpose machine tools that could be modified to produce slightly different parts for slightly different models.
I liked the documentary because it answered a question my wife had while we were in France: “Why are there so many car advertisements on TV?”
The short answer? Since we live in an atheist society, and religious symbols lost their meaning as a status symbol, we simply replaced them by today’s consumer society favorite thing: the car.Well, not only the car, but everything else we purchase as a status symbol: brand laptops, smartphones, cameras, etc. But Alfred P. Sloan, as the president of GM, understood that to drive consumption up (think, programmed obsolescence), people needed to be exposed to a variety of car models, brands, that you drive a purchase impulse using the most basic of human reaction: envy.
This was an eye opener to the rest of today’s buying impulses and how it affect us. I would highly recommend you to watch the video (if you understand French).
Other interesting resources:
- Sources from the video (in French)
- Mythologies, by Roland Barthes
- Audi: Automobile 5 portes, original advertisement, 1993 (in French)