In 2017, lots of people took an interest in the culture of cost-effectiveness, and the trend spread rapidly through SNS such as Facebook and Instagram. As a result, people were easily exposed to feeds about cost-effective restaurants and gifts. It was so popular that cost-effectiveness became the topic of an article in the 334th edition of The Sookmyung Times. However, this year, a different culture has emerged and is taking the lead in trends of 2018. It is the idea of psychological pleasure, also commonly referred to the placebo effect. The phenomenon is being fueled by various health and safety concerns such as the deadly humidifier sterilizers, eggs that were sprayed with pesticides, and sanitary pads containing harmful chemicals.
"For Me" (Newly-Coined Word)
Unlike the cost-effectiveness culture of 2017, this year psychological satisfaction can be highlighted with psychological stability or fulfillment. In other words, though the cost may be relatively high, a purchase decision is made because people think the purchase is reliable. The idea behind psychological satisfaction purchasing was detailed in the book <Trend Korea 2018> published by Seoul National University Consumer Trend Analysis Center on January 4. According to a recent analysis of 12 billion big data posted on social networking sites by the advertising agency HS Ad, psychological pleasure purchase exceeded cost-effective purchase from the second half of last year when Facebook and Instagram users started to upload postings about real trends.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs refers to the concept of psychological pleasure as the 2018 Dining Out trend. Psychological pleasure is affecting citizens everyday lives, and it does not only apply to purchases. A quick example is the trend to buy packed lunch boxes from convenience stores. Satisfaction outweighs price. In the second half of 2017, GS25 surveyed its sales of packed lunches. It found that the portion of packed lunches priced over 4000 won rose from 34% in 2014 to 78%. According GS25, consumer standards for packed lunches increased, and as a result, the percentage of packed lunches valued over 4,000 won increased. There has been a growing number of single people looking to convenience stores for their meals. These people are able to enjoy a small “luxurious” meal without the needed time of going to a restaurant. In other words, they place importance on satisfaction. Unlike the previous year, when people sought cheap quick convenience store lunches, today, people seek healthier and tastier packed lunches, regardless of the cost.
This kind of spending trend stands out when issues, such as the sanitary pads filled with carcinogens, come to light. After the public learnt of the dangerous chemicals used by various sanitary pad manufactures, sanitary pads made solely from natural substances gained great popularity. Women sought more reliable products, and they were willing to pay the higher cost to purchase those safer products. Many women also started to purchase natural sanitary pads even though they need to acquire them through overseas direct purchasing. Clearly it was psychological pleasure that spurred the demand for the more expensive, but reliable products.
Life with the Trend
Consumer distrust and anxiety have given rise to the demand for psychological satisfaction spending. Just last year, there were the eggs sprayed with pesticide, the undercooked hamburger patty issue, and the sanitary pad concern. Kim Nando, professor at Seoul National University, in the Department of Consumer Studies said, “Products that maximize psychological satisfaction are not based on objective standards, but they comfort consumers.”1) Since satisfaction felt from the consumption is inconsistent yet concise, experts are calling it ‘Placebo Consumption’. In other words, purchasing based on psychological satisfaction brings about positive emotion in individuals because they expect better results after the purchase.
Psychological spending has also been influenced by slow economic growth. Lee Junyoung, professor at Sangmyung University in the Department of Consumer Studies said, “When the economy grows slowly, polarization of consumption is noticeable. There will be the trend to spend money freely on things people really like along with the trend of cost-effectiveness.”2) People purchase things that are likely unnecessary, but they desire certain purchases such as Marymond or Heeum to feel they are ethical consumers. When the focus is cost-effectiveness, people look at product price and performance, but when the focus is psychological satisfaction, people subjectively judge the product. With the expectation that the product will be safer and healthier, most people feel satisfied with their purchase. These consumption patterns are affected by economic boom and recession.
The emergence of the culture of psychological satisfaction followed the culture of cost-effectiveness. Recently, a lot of people have tried to enjoy the YOLO lifestyle—You Only Live Once—by indulging in purchases that yield high satisfaction. Therefore, people usually focus on themselves, and they are willing to spend money on buying goods of renowned actor, pop star, and character, regardless of the cost. Typically, people attempt to relieve their stress by buying the things they want but don’t actually need. Rather than evaluating the need for or the performance of an object or service, people look to the psychological satisfaction the item or service will bring. Changes to the household from large families to single-person homes have brought about the desire for the household appliances for their own satisfaction. Manager from Hurom, a household appliance company said, “This year, we expect a lot of “for me” purchases as people investing in themselves or just wish to possess a small luxurious item.”3) The YOLO lifestyle is causing people to emphasize present happiness over future happiness.” The trend will continue and grow stronger with people’s life style.
Enlarge the Trend
Psychological pleasure purchasing has influenced goods for sale. To learn more about that, refer to The Sookmyung Times edition 336. The desire for particular goods began with the demand for famous pop singers’ merchandise. Those sales are expected to reach 100-130 billion won in the near future. The trend spread to other various fields including politics and the film industry. According to the social commerce Timon (Ticketmonster), sales of pop stars by people in their twenties increased 965% from the previous year and sales by those in their thirties increased 442% between November 1 and December 26, 2017. There is a unique satisfaction the purchaser feels after buying goods that symbolize their favorite entertainer, politician, or character. As a result, people consume more. On Everytime, the Sookmyung Women’s University community bulletin board, students make group purchases to acquire items they want such as the snowflake memo pad, badge, cushion and electromagnetic interception sticker.
In addition, ethical spending is on the rise. For example, Marymond has increased its operating profit by half through annual campaigning projects since 2012. It donates profits to an organization that supports victims from the Japanese colonial time, better known today as sexual slavery victims. Although the longed for product is not cheap, people gladly pay the high price to feel as though they are ethical consumers. This can be interpreted as the cost of psychological satisfaction because it gives people a sense of satisfaction from ethical spending. People are seeking compensation for spending money they earned. Because of need for compensation, it is important for manufacturers to understand the emotional state of their consumers. Sohn Sooyeon, head of the Culture Marketing Research Institute said, “We believe the cost of psychological pleasure not only provides gratification but is also the way to resolve feelings of deprivation, which have grown from an emulous society.”4) This implies that 2018 will be a trying year for manufactures in that they will need to ensure consumer satisfaction.
The trend is also expected to have a huge impact on the dining industry. Currently, many restaurants have started marketing themselves as being serving healthy yet tasty food. The average Korean dines out 14.8 times a month.5) In addition, convenience food has replaced packed lunches from home. They offer customers the same warmth and taste as a meal prepared at home. E-mart has released its line of Picock ready-to-eat meals including the spicy beef soup and soybean paste soup. Also, people’s interest in gourmet food is growing. In fact, according to Timon, the amount of hotel buff et tickets bought by people in their twenties increased 71% compared to last year. Even though the price is quite expensive, people enjoy dining at buffets because they are more concerned with pleasure than price. People are also seeking luxurious desserts, so the price of eating at a strawberry dessert buff et in Seoul is now 50,000 won per person on average, and roughly 2,400 buff et tickets have been issued since December 2017. In particular, 'foodstagram’ now has 2,034,360 feeds on Instagram, and it is growing in popularity as people share photos of their meals with others. The trend will be continued. Like these, more industries based on psychological pleasure will be getting larger.
Ready to Accept the New Trend
“Buy what you want! Eat what you want! Wear what you want!” Are these demands possible? Well, it depends on the individual. Many people spend their money on ways to stay healthy but that are also satisfying. Whatever one decides, the most important thing is to never regret your choice. You only have one life to live, so make sure you have no regrets later. Before consenting to the new trend, psychological satisfaction, consider well if it is really for yourself.
1) Han Jin, “Open Your Wallet, the Cost of Psychological Satisfaction”, JoongangIlbo, January 16, 2018
2) Chung Suyoung, “2018’s New Trend, the Cost of Psychological Satisfaction”, News1, January 7, 2018
3) Lee Jongmoo, “Me-Only Tendency Will Grow This Year and Affect Household Appliance Companies”, MaeilIlbo, January 4, 2018
4) Same as 3
5) Yoo Hyunhee, “2018 Food Service Industry Four Keywords”, Bridge Economy, December 19, 2017