Brands, Patanjali, Baba Ramdev and Culture

There are several ways brands adopt to make their way to consumer’s heart or mind or both. Successful brands embody value propositions that either fill a gap or promise transformation into some higher order of existence. The gap filling brands persuade consumers by pointing at the void or uncomfortable recognized or dormant state and offer solution. The brands in such a situation use ‘informational’ route. Consider the following:
• Two toothpaste brands Paradontex and Sansodyneuse informational route. The first offers solution to gum problems and the latter promises escape from tooth sensitivity.
• Crizal lenses are promoted on the propositions of their scratch resistance, anti-glare and UV protection.
• Dulux Weathershield offers protection against elements for longer period of time because of its unique chemical formulation- high performance acrylic resin.

In above cases, the product’s attributes or benefits assume center stage. In transformational method the consumer is not approached on rational basis by offering a problem’s solution (verbal expression) rather a pull is created by a desirable psycho-social consumer state (imagery). In these kinds of promotions the center stage is assumed by consumer’s being and becoming (not in a metaphysical way except for a limited number of brands). The product related thinking is deliberately stultified. The being and becoming take psycho –(emotional) social (symbolic) axis to develop connect with consumers. Consider the following:
• Enfield pulls its target consumers on the proposition of psychosocial experience. The machine bestows power and machismo to a person who in the absence of machine’s highly masculine body and thundering sound senses a danger of identity loss, typical of living in cities. The brand gives a sense of power internally (self symbolism) and respect/command externally (social symbolism).
• Coca Cola’s ‘Happiness’ campaign seeks to appropriate a powerful emotion of joy and delight. The imagery used in its communication- people, occasion, time, sounds and expressions- all collapse into communicating a highly desirable emotional state. The brand subtly creeps into establishing its legitimacy by becoming the key ingredient to happiness (happiness is incomplete without a bottle of Coke).
• Is it psychologically possible for a new mother to have a sense of completeness without using J&J products? Imagine a J&J ad and experience how it overwhelms you with emotions of joy, happiness and affection.


Is Peepal (Ficus religiosa/ ashvattha in Sanskrit) merely a tree or a person in saffron robes with flowing beard is only a person with a different look? Their meaning s are known only to people familiar with Indian cultural. Culture encompasses knowledge, belief, customs, practices and values. It both provides worldview and point of view. Brands are resisted when they violate culture. At the same time, by invoking right cultural meanings, myths and values a brand develop huge resonance. Take for instance, a newly launched brand of platinum jewelry ‘Evara’ evokes cultural construct of ‘blessings’ which are a must in an occasion like marriage. The gender roles (myth or assumptions) are evoked by brands (Bournvita, Vim, Wheel) targeted at women as homemaker, giver, and nurturer. When brand evoke already stores beliefs, meanings, values etc, the need for rational communication is reduced. Thus an image of a tree or saint/sadhu or word can evoke myths (don’t read as lies rather taken for granted assumption or beliefs) to work for the brand in a subtle but very powerful way. The picture of a cowboy on Marlboro evoked myth of rugged individuality and made the brand one of the top sellers.
What does culture have to do with the success of Patanjali brand? Let us take the umbrella name ‘Patanjali’. Does it invoke rich meaning stored in cultural warehouse and bestows its products image/associations highly desired in its product categories? The name’s semantic construction, phonetic expression (Sanskrit) and meaning which activates many legends (including founder of yoga) renders it very close to Indian roots ( Indian system of medicine- ayurvedic). This link with ayurveda further invokes religious linkages with god Danvantari. The name in this case is not a simple word with limited denotation. Rather it is tip of an iceberg with oceanic depth. The brand name pulls out these deeper meanings to the surface and thrives on the dichotomy between nature/unnatural; religious/unreligious; Indian/foreign/ and trust/doubt.
How about presence of Baba Ramdev as brand endorser? He is a ‘baba’. A sadhu, culturally means a renunciator or above material attachments, who operates at a higher level of consciousness. Sadhus are religiously significant and are respected. The renunciation implies Babas have no personal axe to grind (not driven by ‘artha’ or money for material well being of self). The selflessness of Baba Ramdev gives the Enterprise a social philanthropic sheen. The venture escapes scrutiny and suspicion that business typically invites. Babas/sadhus invoke religious imagery as custodians of what is good in a society.

The legends, stories and sacred books pass on different archetypes from one generation to the other. These live in our subconscious but are invoked by brands to make sense. Men with flowing beard and robes evoke ‘sage’ archetype that signifies expert, scholar, philosopher, teacher and teacher. Baba Ramdev’s presence and support for the brand commissions massive cultural meaning to work for the brand and that too without having to have a conscious dialogue. One of the important qualities of brand endorser is trust and on this count he is the best. Baba Ramdev route to credibility also lay in bringing yoga into mainstream. He first appeared as yoga guru who worked singularly for the cause making people healthy. It is later that the equity is transferred to Patanjali products.
Patanjali brand is a cultural phenomena and it different from the like of Dabur or Baidyanath. These brands operated in medicine domain taking position against allopathic formulations. Patanjali operates at an intersection of yoga, medicine, religion, political ideology and commence.

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Luxury, Brands and Top Luxury Brands

The 2013 survey of luxury brands by Brandz compiled by research firm MillwardBrown ranked the following brands as the top global luxury brands. The brands that sit at the top of the luxury heap are Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci.Louis Vuitton

Hermes

Gucci            

Prada

Rolex

Chanel

Cartier

Burberry

Fendi

Coach

 

A term is best understood by opposition. The listed antonyms of luxury are austerity, essential and poverty. So the concept of luxury is linked with great expense/ cost, beyond essential functionality and rich class or affluence.  Can the notion of luxury be built into anything if these criteria are applied? Consider a trunk or box used to store things or a leather hand bag. Louis Vuitton transforms bags and boxes into word’s top most luxuries that one can lay hands on.  Consider a brand like Rolex which reigns at the top in the class of chronometers transforms a timekeeping device into luxury par excellence.

So the question is what goes into making of a luxury? A number of opposing dimensions can be used to analyze the construction of luxury- form or function; aesthetic (beauty) or crude; concrete or abstract; common or rare; contemporary or heritage; limited or mass; indulgence or forbearance; desires or needs; ordinary or extraordinary; reason or emotion, craft or factory, culture or nature.  By applying these dimensions one can decipher the code that luxury brands use in their process of first emptying a product of its meaning and filling it with mystique and mythology. Luxury is experiential and it is rarely about product and its functions.  

 

One of the most common features of luxury brands is their heritage. Consider brands like Louis Vuitton was founded in 1854 in France, Burberry came into existence in 1856 in England,  Hermes was born in 1837 and Rolex birth goes back to 1905. History is different from heritage. History is only chronology of past events but heritage is about past events that hold value today. Luxury brands’ history is marked by innovations and improvements in their way to achieving excellence. It is worth noting that how Louis Vuitton took ordinariness out of trunks and hand bags by perfecting locking mechanism, use of the finest leather and crafting them with superlative finesse. Hermes’s route to extra ordinariness began with crafting saddles for czar of Russia which later went on to include leather garments with its unique fermeture Hermes or fastener to nobility including Prince of Wales.

 

Product excellence is usually is the founding stone for on which luxury edifice is built. The pursuit of extraordinariness in quality (bordering beyond need) renders the product so exclusive that it is accessible only a select group of customers. This is where a brand begins to get socialized and acquires symbolic properties. The process by and large is that of exclusion or social power hierarchy. Luxury is in way about transcendence beyond product or functionality or reason. Brands in their path to luxury first transform themselves from being something physical to abstract by enveloping layers of symbolic properties and then become symbolic resource to be used by people in construction of their psycho-social identities.      

 

Tea, Coffee, Beverage, Meaning and Starbucks

One of the reported items in the ET went by the title ‘Starbucks goes plush for India, give its stores s local flavor’. It reported that the company is positioning, its coffee chain as an aspirational brand. India is by and large is a tea drinking nation. The company spokesperson said that Starbucks coffee bars should be welcoming, inviting and familiar places for people to connect. The research indicated that coffee for Indian consumers is not the primary reason to visit café bars. Rather visitors use coffee bars to meet friends and relatives. A very small portion of sales is consists of take away orders. Starbucks wants to offer its customer a unique experience.

 The reason why I am writing this post is that recently I conducted a study titled ‘Coffee and tea: socio-cultural meaning, context and branding’. This study was motivated by a desire to explore the deeper meaning that these two common beverages hold in our minds.  It threw up interesting insights, which I called as’ beverages in opposition’.  Products or commodities not mere physical entities constructed out of their parts, components or ingredients rather they are also constellations of associations/meanings. They are transformed with conscious marketing efforts or often achieve transformations automatically into psycho-social constructions.  A product or brand is not merely a ‘manufactured or assembled’ entity it is ‘much more’. Branding to a major extent is about creating this ‘much more’. Consumer buying is about meaning construction and signification in a world that is less physical is more psycho-social. Let us look at what coffee and tea stand for.

 Though coffee and tea share a lot axiomatic similarity in terms of their preparation method and usage they differ radically in their hidden symbolism. Tea and coffee have different imprints. Coffee is celebratory and tea is ordinary. Coffee consumption is uncommon and its uncommonness imbues it with a unique mystique associated with a wealthy, refined and intellectually evolved class. Coffee is not a potion for sustenance. Tea is linked to ordinariness and ritualistic in home consumption. Tea is instrumental in bringing family together in close proximity and provides platform for sharing and caring. Symbolically tea brings the family together in close proximity where adults share ideas, joys and sorrows.  

 A certain mystique is associated with coffee. Coffee is predominantly outside drink, it derives its utility from social, aesthetic and emotional role. Coffee does not enjoy such time connections. Tea is routinely prepared but coffee is not. Coffee is celebratory and tea is ordinary. Its consumption is probably prompted by its signaling value which may stem from high price implying exclusion of masses; unique taste which only connoisseurs appreciate; and complex preparation process signifies  dexterity in culinary skills (beaten or filtered or brewed).

 A certain mystique is associated with coffee. Coffee consumption in uncommon and it is this uncommonness which imbues this beverage with a unique mystique associated with a wealthy, refined and intellectually evolved class Tea is functional but coffee is symbolic. Coffee houses differ in their spatial, sensory and social meaning. Some of the Coffee houses sell coffee as an alibi to engage in either intellectually evolved serious conversations (business meetings) or promotion of friendship, gossiping to spend time  and social bonding (one of the coffee chains makes a proposition that  ‘a lot can happen over coffee’ while the other are offers pure sensory indulgence in the aromatic world of coffee. 

Brands, Connotative meaning and System of signs

Luxury is a perceptual phenomenon. It belongs to an object but is not an objective construction. It is constructed in perceptual space of people by a process of meaning transfer. It involves semiotic process of transformation of an object into a sign. A sign operates at two levels of signification. The first order signification is about denotation of what a sign represents. Denotation stands for literal or explicit meaning which operates within the realm of reality. For instance Ray Ban is a shade which protects eyes from ultra violet rays, comes in plastic and metal frames, and with different types of glass shapes sizes and shades. The denotative meaning is ‘what goes without saying’ or is ‘obvious’ description of something.

Making of a luxury brands requires a deliberate and strategic shift from the field of denotation to connotation. How many of people actually look (eye) at Chanel or Ralph Lauren as sun shades or see (perception) them differently. The meaning inferred in these cases operates within the realm of imagination and myth. These brands succeed not by how they are looked at rather by how they are seen. Luxury brands transcend from their denotation or first order signification to appropriate a second order meaning. A whole lot of cultural connotations surround these brands which make them valuable by a certain class of consumers. Brand Chanel signifies class, opulence, style, glamour, fabulous and French.  Ralph Lauren on the other hand signifies American classism combined with English Aristocracy with a dash of sportiness. Technically connotation stands for connotare in Latin, which means ‘to mark along with’. That is how cultural meaning is attached to objects which push them into symbolic, emotional and historic sphere. 

The relationship between a sign and signified (concept) is arbitrary (Saussure). In the above two cases of Ralph Lauren and Chanel, the signified or concept has not been inherent to the objects that they sell, rather these are created or appropriated. Brands are given meaning by use of signs preexisting in a cultural system. Brand communication uses mass media which extensively deploys signs to create meaning. Typically the meaning creation process uses objects, artifacts, people, music, activities in advertising which are obtained from the material culture. Consider how Woodland brand uses people (young, sporty), activity (adventure sport), background (rugged terrain, mountain, and jungle), adventure equipment (mountain bike, climbing gear), shoe construction (sole, leather, laces, shape), earthy colors, brand symbol (tree), bird (eagle) to create a meaning. Upon seeing the ad, people use codes to get to the signified.

In building a meaning, brand communication relies upon different types of signs. Three aspects signs can be distinguished: iconic, indexical and symbolic.  An icon signifies meaning by sharing resemblance. For instance upon seeing a picture or drawing of a person or object (ads show people like a real young male in Woodland’s ad and cycle) to develop meaning. We find out toilets meant for men and women on the basis of icons displayed which share gender resemblance.  Indexical signs signify meaning by the process of causation. The audience can make out or figure meaning like smoke indicates fire and trees signify jungle). In Woodland’s ad by seeing mountain cliff and rugged location we can figure out that the shoes are meant tough outdoor situations. Lastly relationship between a symbol and what it signifies can neither be seen nor figured out, rather it must be learnt. For instance we learn what different traffic symbols signify (a pin band sign on the road suggests that road is bending or the word ‘Kitty’ signifies cat, platinum is learnt to be precious in some cultures).

 Woodland as a term combines two words ‘wood’ (jungle) and land. Literally it stands for jungle or woods. But by use of signs in its communication, the brand has evolved into a symbol of rugged outdoorsy personality. The shoe ceases to be at the centre of its meaning which is quite discernable from the spatial position that name has been given and percentage of space given to shoe in ads. Similarly luxury brands do not stand for objects or products they sell; rather they transform themselves into symbols of something called ‘luxury’ by substitution of the signified.

Luxury, Transfunctionalisation and Dispensability

Marketing is a search for something material or mystical. Theoretically, marketing is about filling gaps or voids which leave people in a state of discomfort, displeasure and dissatisfaction.  Many brands therefore operate within the realm of what is needed; these fulfill need gaps, expressed or otherwise. Accordingly there are products and brands, the absence of which is likely to result in a state of annoyance and discomfort.  A necessity is something unavoidable or indispensable. Necessary goods are the ones which are essential for survival; hence they are indispensible like food, shelter and water. But no absolutes exist.  A necessary good for someone may be luxury for the other. Sunscreen lotion may be necessary for a working executive but luxury for a construction worker.

Luxury on the other hand is non-essential or unnecessary.  Luxuries certainly bring pleasure comfort but their absence is not likely to put life at risk. A watch is necessary for an MNC’s executive but Rolex is not. His travel to office is essential but driving a BMW is not.  And his signing of paper is indispensible part of his job but writing with a Mont Blanc is not. Luxuries in this conceptualization are un-necessary, dispensable and avoidable. So the big question is how marketers transform their inessential wares into something deeply coveted, cherished and wanted. The market for luxuries is huge and growing.  Luxury is a two tiered phenomenon.  First, the luxury connotations prevail at goods categories level and secondly, at the brand level.

Absence of a necessity creates a condition of discomfort and this gives rise to their marketing justification.  But then what justifications do luxury brands offer? So why must luxury brands like Mercedes, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Harry Winston, Vertu, Hermes, Macallan Single Malt, Chanel, and Ralph Lauren be bought? Luxury brands develop their justification not by fulfilling the discomfort or annoyance void by functionality. The first building block at the heart of a luxury brand is its ‘inessentiality’. Luxury brands do not address to annoyances and discomforts rather they subvert brand narrative by pushing it into the realm of inessential, something which is dispensable for survival. The discourse about essential or functionality is opposite of the concept of luxury. Luxury in this construction implies discovering something material or immaterial that falls outside the boundary of the ‘essential’.

Is the concept of luxury universal? Luxury is a culturally constructed phenomenon.  For instance, a high carat diamond may not hold any luxury connotations for an African tribe. This is also true for brand building, the connotations or symbolism signifying (Nichole Kidman/ diamond dial for Omega Ladymatic) luxury depends upon culture.  A car denotes a vehicle but a BMW connotes luxury which is more than a car. A watch denotes a time keeping device but Rolex connotes luxury.  Luxury making is about making appearances and disappearances. In both these cases, the objects (car and watch) fade into background and some symbolic construction comes to forefront.

Luxury branding is about investing something ‘extra’ into a product.  This may take physical or non-physical form. Luxury brands transform the way they are looked at by their consumers. But then there is not universal way of looking at things. The way of looking at things is culturally determined. Culture supplies values, codes and norms which are then applied to decode meaning.  Objects can be viewed employing physical, mechanical, economic or social perspective.  Meanings operate at two levels. The first order meaning is about what it denotes and is functionally determined. The second order meaning or connotation is creation by the process of transfunctionalisation . Initially an object is devoid of any sign value. Luxury is not about denotation or functionality, it is about connotation.  The sign value (brand as signifier) is constructed by an interplay of socio-cultural process. Marketers use cultural as sign system to achieve this transformation, in which mass media plays a dominant role. Here the product is made to stand for something that it is inherently not by and interplay of signs and codes drawn from the culture.

A semiotic study of luxury watch brands revealed interesting findings as to how these time keeping devices are transfunctionlised into pieces of luxury- unique and highly desirable.  The five codes used by these brands were:  transfunctionalisation into jewelry which takes the watch away from its functionality. It is signified through design aspects like looks, diamonds, bracelets and availability at jewelry stores.  Second, luxury signified through quality or what is inside the case of a watch- the technology.  It is expressed through complications of movement, precision, sapphire glass etc.  Then there a code relate to jewelry is about watch’s construction with precious metals and materials like diamonds and gold. And lastly luxury is about scarcity and exclusivity. These brands create an impression of scarcity by not letting their brands available everywhere.    

Making of a luxury brand is about transformation of an object into a construct of imagination by systematic conversion of exchange value into sign value.

Relationship, Brands, Personification and A Tale of Two Brands

Recently I came across two buying episodes which throw light on how brands interact with customer:

In the first instance one of my students shared her wrist watch buying experience. She went to buy a watch in a store and asked the sales person to show some timepieces for her. She wanted to be shown some good quality decent to wear watch. Form a large display of watches the sales person pulled out one and handed her to check it out.  No sooner than he passed on the watch to her to try she rejected the watch even putting it on her wrist.  The thought that echoed her mind was ‘a round, golden watch, it’s my mom’s watch not for me’. Then she moved on to Fastrack counter and picked one from their collection, a watch that had an ‘odd’ shape for a watch and  did not conform to the stereotypical image of a time keeping device.

The second instance involves one of my known lady friends. She wanted to change her phone not because her current mobile instrument was giving her troubles rather she wanted to try something new. Her prime consideration was a ‘decent’ phone not ‘very expensive’. To her a mobile for is for primarily for calling and SMSing purposes and ‘applications’ scare her for she has no technology attitude or aptitude. Upon glancing through various options and brands we chanced upon a device that looked good, pleasing to hold, easy to use and bore a trusted name. But learning that it was a ‘Asha’ variant from Nokia was like a bomb destroying her choice for the phone in a spur of a moment. Suddenly all evaluations and deliberations lost relevance and her reluctance seemed like an impregnable wall. No amount of reasoning and cajoling would make her yield to this brand name. She eventually went on to buy ‘Lumia’ but without any understanding of what a Windows phone is what purpose it serves.

In both of these cases the thinking mind finds it baffling as to why a time keeping device is rejected on a ground that it was round (one of the most popular shapes) in shape and how on earth mobile phone selected after due deliberation (features and functionality) suddenly become unacceptable simply because of its name? There is something more at work than that meets eyes. An act of buying involves much more than surface utility centric considerations. Here in the first case the ‘keeping of time accurately’ and ‘being able to talk and send messages’ in the second case. Here the rejection seemed to be stemming out not from ‘what the product does’ rather ‘what the product/brand means’. The shape and name symbolism probably has subversive effect on relationship creation.

Customer – brand exchange transcends the narrow confines of economic utility considerations. Marketing is a two way street. Customers also invest in their relationship with brands. In above two cases, the customer’s rejection is based not product functionality rather unwillingness to have a relationship with the brands in question for reasons extraneous to product. Relationship is a humanistic construct. Either by deliberate design or unintended default brands develops human character which determines their relationship potential. In the cases mentioned above brands fall into ‘dissociation’ set for they embody meaning discordant with customers’ life project. It is probably brand’s failure in making of meaning that a customer wants to make in a specific context. The dissonance stems from friction that customer is likely to experience on psycho-social plane.

Why does a round dial golden watch does not deserve to be a companion of a young girl? The round dial is symptomatic of conformance and tradition. Conceptually the idea that this kind of watch stands for does not gel with the ideas and ideals of the current generation. Watch shape signifies tradition, conformity, power asymmetry and subordination with which a young girl does not identify. You don’t want to be friends with a person who is like your father or mother. Every new generation reinterprets culture and modifies it. The Fastrack brand’s signs offs- ‘move on’ allows free flowing interpretation of symbols and relationships. At the form level Fastrack watches are formless or shapeless which symbolize a break away from past. This also implies cracking of old structures (ideas and ideals) which held our society. A watch in this case becomes a narrative of new generation in search of its own story. The unconventional shape that breaks away shape is like a piece of modern art which shifts the locus of meaning from the communicator to the interpreter. A watch on the wrist is not about objective time that its pointers signify rather about its shape, the container of time. Time is an objective reality encased in a subjective container, whose progression in measured units remains constant but it is its constancy in progression makes every arriving unit different.

In the second case is about subversion by the subconscious of the conscious. The brand name ‘Asha’ upsets the value equilibrium and throws the brand out of consideration into disinclination. The reason is stymied by the invisible effect of the brand name. Brand name not simple signifiers of a person or object. Names plug on to the collective consciousness and fill meaning. Naming is identity giving process, without a name a person will have no self identity. Here brand rejection stems not from what the product is rather the identity connotations that brand bestows upon it. Names can revels cultural values and cherished ideals. Brand name ‘Asha’ translates into ‘hope’ which is not a dissonant idea. But name draws it symbolism from people (e.g.Asha Parekh), movies (Asha movie starring Jeendera), and role (homemaker, dependent). The brand develops a disconnection with the buyer not for reasons of ‘what it does’ rather ‘what it means’ in his or her imagination. It for this reasons some brands become aspirational and desirable.

Consider why typical English or Italian names are considered desirable in ready to wear apparels like Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Louis Philippe, and Armani. A perfume is unlikely to a ring bell with customers with a mature sense of smell if its name is not French sounding. A heavy sounding name in German language certainly adds substance to an engineered object. Naming is one of the processes by which an object can be given distinct human characteristics and mythologies. Imagine the mythologies names like Apollo or Venus or Rama or Arjuna would bring to an inanimate object. This is where customer’s visualization begins whether a brand is worthy of having a relationship with or not.

Peek –a-boo bra, Emancipation, Identity, Attraction and Kim Kardashian

The HT City’s March 3rd edition carried a item on its front page titled ‘The inside, outside’. It also showed pictures of four celebrities, Chitrangda Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kim Kardashian and Kangna Ranuat. But then what these actors had to do with the headline ‘The inside, outside’? It was their peek-a-boo bra. Style experts say that ‘paring a sheer top over a sexy bra is a cool trend’. Innerwear is new outerwear this season.Chitrangada Singh

Apparels are commonly distinguished as inner or underclothes and outerwear. The need to wear underclothes was born out of a need to protect outer clothes from getting soiled due to bodily discharge (perspiration) and providing support (breasts).  The additional layer of clothing inside can protect from cold and prevent physical activity related injury (sports bra or guard). The usage of undergarments can also be traced to the reason of modesty preservation. Garments like slips and camisoles to ‘cover up’ body to avoid unwanted attention.

Apparently innerwear owes their usage to protective role- from unwanted attention or physical injury. Undergarments are also called intimate apparels (lingerie). Their intimacy connection comes from their being next to skin. Further this category includes products such as gown, night robes, nightdress, and underwear. The term ‘intimacy’ describes the nature of relationship between people in physical and emotional sense which includes love, romance, and sex. Intimate relationships are close, personal and are emotionally charged. These garments draw their name from their use situations. At work here is their role in moments of physical intimacy (love and sex). Their use- context pushes their meaning into the realm of emotions. Away from their protective role, now innerwear is coveted for its higher order role in fueling passions in moments of physical proximity. In private, innerwears are instruments of seduction. It is for this reason; most lingerie brands never draw attention to protective functions in their communication. Rather seduction, passion, desire, and sex form core of their appeal. The obvious paradox between the huge prices that top lingerie brands command for such a small itsy bitsy piece of fabric can be reconciled by the fact that it is not the piece of fabric that commands you to sacrifice huge price rather the promise of passion, excitement, ecstasy and exhilaration.

But then why bra is getting out from close confines of four walls out in the open? It is that two triangles and a string have assumed new extended role?  One fashion expert says that peek-a-boo bra is about revealing but not everything. Dress is culturally constructed and socially enforced. Deviations invite outrange and sanctions. The extent to which body can be exposed depends on culture. For instance western societies accept body exposure more than eastern societies. Revealing clothes breach socially imposed boundary of what is construed as decent. It is a deliberate act of transgression, daring and challenge of power balance between genders. Dress is much more than mere body cover. Quantitatively less of cloth implies qualitatively more of power.  

 kim kardashian

An intentioned act aimed at blurring the division between inner and outerwear reveals ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ and ‘don’t care’ attitude. It is about assertion and assumption of individuality. From being governed to governor. Bikini arrived in western society in 1950s as a fashion item later evolved into a symbol of female expression, an emblem of freedom. The two- piece swimwear had tough time in getting to mainstream because of opposition from the orthodox. So coming out of innerwear as outerwear is not entirely about being in fashion, it is also about identity and emancipation.

In marketing use of sex appeal to promote products is common. Scantily dressed women are often used to break through communication clutter and capture attention. Vance Packard in his book mentioned about a controversial ad of Maidenform Bra: ‘I dreamt I stopped traffic in my Maidenform Bra’. In the campaign the model fully dressed expect that she wore only a bra above the waist was shown wandering with normally dressed people. Her undressed state was justified on the ground that she was dreaming. The ad was claimed to be sound because the desire to appear naked or scantily clad in a crowd is ‘present inn most of us’. Hence it represented ‘a beautiful example of wish fulfillment’.