Monetizing Memories

By Jill Applegate

Buttons. Magnets. T-shirts. Bookmarks. Key chains. Pins. Figurines. Post cards. Mugs. Pencils. Hats. Chocolates. Jackets. Ornaments. Jewelry. Books. Posters. Toys. Cards. Aprons. Blankets. Medallions.

You name it, and the White House gift shop has it. Anything and everything is plastered with the faces of President Obama and his family to celebrate the upcoming 57th Inauguration.  Some items are more practical than others, and some items are ridiculously strange and ultimately useless. Yet, people continue to buy these things. While browsing the store today, I noticed that one family/tourist group bought over $200 worth of Inauguration souvenirs. Anything can be transformed into a money making opportunity, as long as you have a consumer base to buy the product you are selling.

I admit, I buy into the phenomenon, too.The magnet I bought to remember the 57th Inauguration.

I admit, I buy into the phenomenon, too.
The magnet I bought to remember the 57th Inauguration.

In these economically hard times, when issues such as the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff are becoming well known to the public, it makes sense for businesses to capitalize on any opportunity they get. But as consumers, is it smart for us to be buying these products? We all want a souvenir to remember that we witnessed this special event or traveled to that great city, but what significance does that material item really hold, and is it worth our hard earned money? Do we really need to monetize our memories?

One of the less practical items at the gift shop--a gold rimmed collector's plate of all 44 U.S. presidents.Photo courtesy of http://www.whitehousegiftshop.com

One of the less practical items at the gift shop–a gold rimmed collector’s plate of all 44 U.S. presidents.
Photo courtesy of http://www.whitehousegiftshop.com

If we don’t buy these products, though, are we then not supporting our businesses, thus furthering our economic problems? What came first: the creation of the products by the businesses looking for a profit, or the demand for the products by the consumers?

It is really a vicious cycle. And I’m not sure of the answer.  What do you think?

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