Consumer Confidential: Mnuchin’s Wife Isn’t The Only One Defining Herself Through The Brands She Promotes

By David Lazarus
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The internet is now populated with “influencers” and “tastemakers”, and more than a few wannabes, who dedicate themselves to pimping popular brands. In return, many receive swag, and maybe some cash, from the companies they promote.

Los Angeles Times

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin’s wife, Louise Linton, did herself no favors when she took to Instagram last week to brag about the luxury brands she was wearing, and then belittled a commenter who called her out for her let-them-eat-cake behavior.

“It’s as stupid as stupid gets,” said Leslie Goldgehn, a professor of marketing at the University of California, San Francisco.

But I’m not here to join the chorus of critics who have made Linton the poster girl for crass, tone-deaf displays of wealth and thoughtlessness. I have another question in mind.

Why do people do this?

I don’t mean why people behave so atrociously. I mean: Why do consumers, even those in the pampered One Percent Club, so eagerly embrace corporate brands and make them their own?

It’s not a new phenomenon, of course. Consumers have been associating themselves with favorite brands for decades, logos on T-shirts or sneakers, designer goods that all but scream the designer’s name.

What’s changed is the way social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have taken things to a higher level, making brand identification more powerful, more tempting and potentially more dangerous.

“Social media is amplifying and accelerating the phenomenon,” said Americus Reed, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It’s where we curate an idealized version of ourselves.”

And then we broadcast it to the world.

Linton, a Scottish actress and producer who married Mnuchin in June, certainly wasn’t shy about putting herself on display.

She posted a photo on Instagram of herself and her husband disembarking from a government jet in Kentucky, where the pair planned to visit Fort Knox. Some say they actually were using government money to get a good seat for the eclipse.

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