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Real estate fashion sense hits a mental wall

Consumers second-guess judgment in a sea of media marketing

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We all know that nothing looks more dated than last year's red-hot style. What's not so obvious is why consumer styles–whether clothes, curtains or cars–come and go with such cyclical certainty. More often than not, the seeds of new design trends are carefully nurtured by their respective industries to spur sales, and then disseminated via design magazines, television shows and the like. Clever marketing encourages consumers to believe that they're the ones driving these trends, when in fact it's more often the other way around. Once a hot trend inevitably runs its course, another comes along to replace it. Those who literally bought into the previous fashion cycle are left with outmoded items that once again beg to be replaced with more current ones, thereby starting the cycle anew. The American auto industry brilliantly exploited this marketing ploy during the postwar era. Back then, Detroit's enormous, chrome-laden cars were heavily restyled each and every year, ensur...