If nature apparently abhors a vacuum, this is certainly not the case with capitalism. If you get lost on Amazon, you can come across “Close up nothing” capsules, to offer “to those who already have everything”, literally a capsule with… nothing inside. 12.25 euros still the price of the vacuum, because hey, you might as well make money despite everything.
A product that, beyond making you want to raise the first red flag and put an end to uninhibited liberalism, is reminiscent of the sale of bottles of pure mountain air and other gems of the genre, such as this bag of nothing. But why are people ready to spend ten euros on empty space?
We reassure you, we understood that these were second degree purchases and a troll gift to offer to someone. Dominique Roux, professor of marketing at the University of Paris Sud, brings these trinkets closer to contemporary art, with in particular Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal, namely “non-conformism and distinction in relation to today’s consumer society . “The objects associated with the sale of Close up nothing on Amazon are moreover… toilet brushes bearing the effigy of the Presidents of the Republic, the expert tells us, proof that what we buy here is less the void than the idea of subversion.
Because precisely, why not sell them, anti-conformism and subversion? Pascale Hébel, co-director of a marketing consulting firm, notes: “Sobriety and consuming less are concepts in the era of time. There are naturally products surfing on this trend. In addition to books on deconsumption or minimalism, there is therefore just a void: “It can be socially important to offer something anyway, even to someone who advocates sobriety. Instead of offering him nothing, we offer him nothing”.
Philippe Moati, director of the Society and Consumption Observatory, admires the tour de force: “Of course, the consumer buys it secondarily, to denounce overconsumption. Nevertheless: he has just spent 10 euros for vacuum, and with an obvious waste of raw material on the packaging, plus the ecological problems of delivery. He therefore participates in what he condemns”. Selling is cynical: there are no good or bad buys, there are just purchases.
Go to the florist instead of offering flowers from the garden
Elisabeth Tissier-Desbordes, professor of economics at ESCP and specialist in consumer behavior, notes “the influence of the consumer society on individuals: you have to consume to denounce it. In the same way that we sell Che t-shirts, we sell objects to the glory of sobriety. »
And when we ask why instead of slamming ten balls, we can’t just take an empty box and offer it to our friend who we want to troll, the teacher replies: “Because that would make you look like a cheapskate. . You have to put money, investment. Offering something without market value remains rather difficult to accept, even when one wants to denounce capitalism. The expert takes the example of flowers: we rarely offer those from our garden or our balcony, even if they are pretty. You have to pay to give.
Pleasure to offer and pleasure of the eyes
This is also the whole point of these packaging: to give value and credit, even when empty. It’s the same principle with the air of Paris sold in bottles by… Marcel Duchamp, definitely always in good marketing moves, or the mountain air mentioned above. “Of course, we could fill an empty water bottle, which would be cheaper. But what certification would we have? Even vacuum or air, it has to be certified,” questions Elisabeth Tissier-Desbordes.
A packaging or packaging that also allows to give a visual utility to the product: that of recalling the memory. “I’m sure that nobody opens the bottles of clean air, suggests Dominique Roux. But seeing the visual of the product reminds us of the past moment, like when we bring back a pebble or a shell from the beach. »
Sell at all costs
Just as “life always finds a way” in Jurassic Park, marketing always manages to sell: “We can clearly see this with the aviation or automotive sector. We only very rarely imagine that we no longer make planes or cars for ecological reasons, we try to make them green transport. You have to constantly sell”, develops Pascale Hébel.
Same observation with Philippe Moati: “Traditional markets are saturated, so we have to find others. Quit selling vacuum then. He takes the example of NFTs and the Metaverse, where it is a question – to put it very crudely – of selling objects that simply do not exist. “What matters is creating value, sales, trade. We always need new markets, which the machine continues to turn, and even to grow”, continues the expert.
Is there a limit to that, and don’t we come to the end of logic when we end up selling emptiness? “It’s the essence of the market: to sell us answers to needs that we wouldn’t even have thought of without it,” smiles Dominique Roux. However, beware of indigestion, warns Philippe Moati: “Beyond militant demands, we note a loss of appetite for purchases in the West. Most people already have so much, it loses its meaning, despite the efforts of marketing. ‘ After buying vacuum, maybe the consumer will come to know the vacuum to buy.