Today in the Far East, especially in China, millions of dollars are being spent on self-gifting.
In the West we observe November 11th as remembrance day. The Great War (1914-18) ended on the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month. We bow our heads in solemn contemplation of the lives lost on battlefields by generations of young men who answered the call for reasons they did not understand. There is a brisk business in the symbols of remembrance, poppies in Britain and the Commonwealth and Cornflowers in France but if you move outside of these countries traditions change, celebrations differ, symbols are not so prominent.
In China the alignment of 4 1’s in the date (11/11) have come to symbolise the self. Each 1 stands for the single person, and this is the day of the year with the most occurrences of the number one. It is a day for celebrating the self, and in particular a celebration of single status. Singles day is the antidote to Valentines day.
Pioneered by the Alibaba website the day has become a huge commercial celebration in China, and is starting to spread. For young people this is an occasion that is exciting and relevant and fun. Who wants to stand in the cold looking at paper poppies and people crying while they listen to mournful music when they could be having fun with their friends deciding how to treat themselves this year.
Self-gifting is a really interesting form of consumption. Much of the pioneering research in this field was carried out by David Glen Mick of the University of Virginia. You can access a number of his journal papers here: http://gates.comm.virginia.edu/dgm9t/research.html It is a rich source of revenue that has barely been addressed in the West, but has been seized upon in the East. Why should we not celebrate ourselves and our achievements? Who best to know exactly what gift I want but me? All I need is the excuse to reward myself, and not look too selfish!
Retailers would do well to understand the mind of the self-gifter. How can you set up a display or communicate a product so that it says “you deserve it, now take it”? Mick established three important dimensions of the self-gifting process that the retailer must understand.
1. Communication: This object/experience communicates something about you.
2. Exchange: You deserve this, it is a personal self-validation that you are GREAT.
3. Specialness: This object/experience is almost a sacred/ritual element that will complete who and what you are, because it is special and you are special and together you are unique.
Gift-giving is a ritual cycle. I have written previously about the importance of ritual to human society. Every retailer is aware of the power of gifting occasions to stimulate purchase. Mothers day, Valentines day, Christmas, Birthdays, Retirement, Birth, Marriage etc. If you can validate self-gifting for a person then it also becomes a ritual. Singles day was established in China to embed self-gifting in young adults. It establishes a habit of self-gifting which is likely to remain with people for the rest of their lives.
When you get married, why should you stop giving yourself a gift on singles day?
I predict that in 10 years, or less, 11/11 will be singles day in the West. A lot of grumpy old soldiers will stand around the Cenotaph and moan about the erosion of values and crass consumerism. They may as well try to stem the tide.
If You Forget Me; by Pablo Neruda
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.