Odd piece here in the NYT that seems to suggest that the reason why individuals buy what they buy is to transmit some message to those around them.
Of course, the piece seeks out focus groups and "brand name narcissism" [sic] for a good kicking (probably rightly, I reckon) but the argument seems to rest on some pretty poor evolutionary Psychology of the very simplest sort: peacock's tail and sexual prowess, etc etc. [For a rather better view of that discipline go here]
Now seems to me that this piece is just the wrong way round: we don't buy what we buy primarily to do something to those around us but rather we do so because of what others around us are doing & buying.
i.e. it's PULL NOT PUSH
Not all the time and not exclusively, but more than any of us is really happy to admit.
Funny how easy it is for a journo's populist interpretation of proper science can make the scientist themselves look silly, isn't it?