Pinteresting Changes in Consumer Culture

If blogging led to early-onset writer delusion in a portion of the population that never suffered from it before, Pinterest is the domain of the visually literate. It says kudos to all those who asked ‘How do you read such thick books with no pictures?’ Users board images into cute piles of colour, metaphorical structures (bridges, tunnels, and doors), hairstyles, nails, typography, illustrations, and package design… It is possible to pin videos as well, yet most of the pins are images.

Most Pinterest boards are visual lollipops for grown women

Although the gender and age profile differs from country to country, Pinterest is the first major social media tool where women are the majority. Earlier this year, 83% of the US users were women, with the typical age range between 35-44. In Great Britain, 56% of the users were male and their age profile was more youthful, on average 10 years younger than in the US. Since there are more users from the States, the average pinterest user is a career woman or housewife in her late thirties. There are also quite a few creative types active on Pinterest, but the majority of users look like the desperate housewives turned quaint. This stereotypical profile has a great influence on the popular user from other countries, as following boards and repinning images is the basic mode of user interaction on Pinterest. Given the age-gender profile, it is surprising to see a lot more logo, typography, and package design collectors than you’d expect. There are also umpteen pinners of designer garments and objects, indicating the successful dissemination of design culture among the masses. However, the stereotypical Pinterester is not likely to be able to afford most of what she pins in a million years.

domestic but quaint, mrs. french of Portland, Oregon is very popular

Pinterest is quickly changing early twenty-first century consumer culture and social media. Pinterest is taking design consciousness from the in crowd and feeding it to the masses. One possible impact is investment by FMCG producers in package design, slowly moving towards quaint packaging. Retro and quaint packaging, associated with organic and artisanal food, incites consumer trust about the quality of the product. With the popular pinterest in package design, we may see more blue chip FMCG clad in cute packages, even if only for specific marketing campaigns. Coca Cola’s limited edition ‘125 years box set’ from last year can be seen as a precursor for blue chip catering to mass vintage hysteria.

Brands like Bonne Maman can boast of cool packaging, as well as claiming ‘artisanal’ quality. Despite the fact that, it is ‘the largest exporter of jam in the world. It’s image, reputation and worldwide distribution make Bonne Maman one of the most famous brands that represent France abroad.’

Pinterest also changed online identity construction. In a pinteresting twist of lack and desire, all you have to do now is to showcase your taste! You can construct your identity, not on the basis of what you own, but on the basis of what you want to own. Now consumers are window-shopping and window-displaying products they may or may not be able to afford. It’s been a quick ride from the surge of ‘look what I’m wearing today’ blogs to pinning ‘what I’d be wearing, if only I could afford it’ on Pinterest. What used to be exclusive content in Monocle is being repinned every second. This new development in lifestyle has important implications for the future of social media. Social media boomed with sharing real-life experiences: WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Four Square, and Flickr owe their success to the willingness of private individuals in sharing their activities, work, and content. With Pinterest, you don’t have to go to Thailand to display photos of Phuket. Neither do you not have to cite the photographer or the source. While it is possible to track the original sources of most content, one can pin images one hoarded on one’s harddisk onto her or his boards and infringe copyright.

Virtual pilgrimages

Pinterest is converting social media users into curators of consumerism, who consciously construct their online identity by showcasing their taste in content selection and display. What we own used to be central to who we are, we desired what we lacked. On Pinterest we show all that we lack and desire without the necessity of doing anything about it. The world of 21st century online curation is changing the meaning of desire. Come on, pin that, you will be the most pinteresting virtual it-girl of the year!

My un-pinteresting asaroton curation with too much text!!!

34 Comments on “Pinteresting Changes in Consumer Culture”

  1. largemargeuk says:

    This is fascinating – but how do you actually do anything original with it?

    • automaticturk says:

      The problem is, there’s a pressure on the Pinterest user not to leave the herd and do something original. The moment you do what everyone else is doing, you start getting responses. Cheri Lucas wrote a great piece about her experience, she also argues that only the mainstream becomes popular. What I find really refreshing thing about Pinterest is that the mainstream taste is becoming much more quaint, pretty, and well-designed. For Lucas’ piece:

  2. boldsoul says:

    Very insightful and timely.

  3. No real mention of information dissemination and that is the main reason I use it. There are great resources available there if you do more than just pin it. Tracking the image back to the original source may require a few more clicks but is worth it. On the downside, if I have to look at another nail polish I may do something I’ll regret, but that’s what you get for not fitting the primary demographic.

    • automaticturk says:

      Love Many Trust Few, wonderful point. Pinterest, like any other tool, can be used in a million different ways. I will talk about the dissemination of information and what is really absent from Pinterest in another piece, I tried to concreate here on the power of quantity in possibly changing brand policies made in rooms by men and women who are so far removed from the users of Pinterest. It is power, it’s first female-dominated social media tool ever and it is big and getting bigger. There is nothing wrong with being a desperate housewife, working mom or dreaming. But right now women are not using this power for things other than improving their visual literacy and taste, which is great in itself because we will end up with a prettier world for it. Moreover, taste is also a value, we can use our curatorial skills for changing our careers and lives.

      One of the downsides is that somehow Pinterest makes it okay just to arrange and rearrange images without feeling the necessity to do anything else about it. After I wrote this post, I came across Cheri Lucas’s great piece about her experience of filing away her dreams thanks to a like on the post: I agree with Lucas, pinning images of Bogotá does not get you there. What I’d like to see on Pinterest is a move from just being the master of a world of images, to doing what it takes to actually bring into our lives what we like by empowerment, increasing our earning power, and what not. But economy, even the prices of the objects and places we desire are largely absent from Pinterest, we just get the images, which can be linked to their source by a few clicks as you pointed out. By eliminating the price tag from our window displays, we are becoming farther removed from what we desire. My hope is that the sheer power of quantity will dictate producers of food, garments, furniture, etc. to change quality and cater to our taste by supplying more affordably well designed items.

      Another downside is, there are users who may have the things they share, who actually boast of their possessions, as opposed to users who just ‘file away their dreams’. It must be a totally different feeling to belong to the former group, which makes pinterest a display cabinet, social capital enhanced by visibility. I’m more interested in seeing a rise in the capital of the average user.

      So even if you fitted the primary demographic, you can always look for ways of becoming empowered. Just like you, I use Pinterest to disseminate information and to be fed by others, to remember the images and objects I like, to keep in a few boards all the images that moved me. But what are we going to do about the information we gather and share? As tempting as some of those glittery nails are, we want more!

      • Cheri Lucas says:

        How lovely to see a mention to my Pinterest post here! Glad it resonated with you, and glad to see some discussion here on your post.


      • Loni Found Herself says:

        To this point, I confess that when I see someone pin, say, a pair of shoes, and then proclaim “just bought these!,” it feels like they’re bragging.

      • Thanks for such a considered response. I was a relatively early adopter and have seen a few changes emerge over time. One of those is that the marketing folk have jumped in. This is a real shame as the power potential will only deteriorate in that sense. I’m interested in ideas and art not necessarily buying stuff. It would be hard to put a price on what I look for from pinterest – thank goodness!

      • automaticturk says:

        Thank you Cheri, it did resonate with my experience!
        Yes, Lori, I’m with you on this one. Actually once I read a list on facebook called ‘A Gentleman’s Rules for Facebook’ it said something like, a gentleman never really posts travel pictures, boasts about where they’ve been, who they’ve seen, etc. Actually the person who posted this was a real English gentleman, coming from that class of well-bred men we seldom get to meet, and I observed he and quite a few others who have a similar background never indulge in these little acts of bragging. But I also find it very cute, if I see a friend’s Aruba pictures, especially if I know that he/she always wanted to go there… So there’s a thin line. I think it’s always a miss to post everything you do, you buy, you eat. But sometimes posting one or two things that make us happy is fine.
        Love Many Trust few, I think like other social media tools, advertising and marketing is closely becoming an integral part of Pinterest as it grows. Keep being inspired!

  4. TNH says:

    “taking design consciousness from the in crowd and feeding it to the masses” this is what it exactly doing!! great Insight!

  5. Thanks. I was wondering what the deal was with that site.

  6. automaticturk says:

    Many thanks for reading and the feedback, I’m glad what I scribbled is generating discussion. Really curious about what you think and your personal experience with Pinterest : )

  7. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Pinterest showcases our taste. No one needs to be exposed to mine. I stay far, far away from Pinterest.

    • automaticturk says:

      Thank you, I still think that Pinterest would be more interesting if you brought different taste from the crowd!

  8. Floyda Foley says:

    I really like to begin Pinterest already..Great post!

  9. I use Pinterest for creative inspiration as well as an escape. Surprisingly I find looking at the images and getting inspired oddly calming and gratifying. I often look at it right before I go to bed. Maybe it fosters pleasant dreams! But I have actually made many of the things I’ve seen on it. I find it great to link back to tutorials (I’m in the crafting industry). For my business, I’ve also tried using it to market my products. Although without much success at this point. But even if one person repins my products its worth the PR effort!

    • automaticturk says:

      I think it is visually stimulating, helping us become more literate. The word always comes before the image in our world, but was this always so? We started with cave paintings. It is important to enhance our visual literacy. Even if one wants to become a fashion or decoration stylist (for magazines), one normally studies art history, to get things right. And especially since you recreate some of what you see, I can easily imagine how it’s a practical muse for your work. And I agree, for women who create jewellery, bijoux, and other arts and crafts, it can also boom their business. You have to take very good pictures for getting the most out of it as a marketing platform. Good luck!

  10. hycling says:

    Also a great marketing tool, due to users mostly re-pinning. I also enjoy pinning things I see on other sites. I have an eye for the aesthetic and just enjoy pinning and sharing. Good time waster!

  11. Pinterest is really interesting! I’ll make an account soon 🙂 Thanks for the post!

  12. I have literally never thought of Pinterest in this way, this is such an interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

  13. I love this post! It’s true, pinterest allows us to impinge on the world of the wealthy elite and virtually own and shop just like they do. Money can’t buy taste, and it no longer has to! One question: You wrote, “the average pinterest user is a career woman or housewife in her late thirties. . . . Given the age-gender profile, it is surprising to see a lot more logo, typography, and package design collectors than you’d expect.” Why is it surprising? Anyway, I can’t wait for mass packaging to improve … currently I have to go to my local gourmet shop to ogle the gorgeous packaging, but it will be nice when I can also just go to FoodTown/A&P for this. p.s. Here’s my PINTEREST!! xoxo

    • automaticturk says:

      Well normally you expect people in the creative industries to be really into typography and package design, and actually they are the ones who supply most of these images. That’s why I was surprised for the mass appeal of these categories. If it was otherwise, FoodTown/A&p would already be the place to go for ogling the gorgeous packaging, but one needs to go to gourmet shops, Whole Foods, or other artisanal stores. Enjoy the lookout!

  14. Loni Found Herself says:

    This is a great post, and quite timely. AS to your point about users making “dream boards,” I have to confess that mine very much started out that way. And then something strange happened – that “goals and hopes” board I created, which included things like learn to garden, visit a new cultural institution each month, go camping, travel abroad with friends, etc…, inspired me to start my blog, where I chronicle my adventures and successes. All those things I pinned about Peru to a travel board inspired me to book the trip, and now my pins, my photographs, are inspiring others.
    I initially, too, pinned clothes and jewelry at whim, but I’ve lately become sort of uncomfortable about pinning things I can’t afford. That Prada gown that has 657 repins? Yeah, it’s pretty. But I won’t pin it. Nowadays, if I’m going to pin clothes, shoes, jewelry, or furniture, I check prices on the source site and pin only the things that I actually would and could buy.

    I also think there’s something to be said about intent. Some people on Pinterest treat it as advertisement, or comment on popular pins, urging people to visit their own boards. I don’t get it, and I don’t play that way. I honestly keep my board for me. I’m uninterested in followers, and if I don’t know you in real life I’m not following you.

    • automaticturk says:

      I was just thinking after reading couple of sentences, yeah, everything begins by dreams and hopes. I’m glad to hear that you started blogging too, and going to Peru. It’s also high on my dream list, it’s my favourite cuisine in the world. If you can make it to an expensive dinner one night, try Gaston Acurio’s La Mar or Astrid y Gaston ( I’m all for doing things. I’m glad to hear that Pinterest moved you from the realm of dreams to action.

      Exactly what I feel about that Prada gown, only instead of being on the pages of Vogue, now it comes to our screen. When we look at it in Vogue, it’s very frustrating sometimes. We buy the magazine to look at those, and then we see them and we feel frustrated. Pinterest intelligently lets us circumvent that, by repinning we get some sort of satisfaction instead of the fashion magazine frustration. But are we ever gonna get that dress? Nonetheless, it’s still good to see the things we can’t afford, because it impacts what we choose among the things we can.

      And the people who are after popularity on Pinterest, well they exist all over social media. What I don’t get is the perk. The amount of time you need to spend to become the popular Pinterester, is it worth it? I also don’t go out of my way to seek attention on social media. Thats why the sudden interest in this post made me so happy, more than 1500 people read it in one day when it appeared on Freshly Pressed. I didn’t expect that. I wish you the best of luck with your blog, apparently being a novice can still be good.

  15. I love pinterst for a million reasons, but what keeps me pinning is it’s information station. My boards are based on my interests. I love to cook so I have pinned a ton and have made my way through most of them. All I have to do is click on my cooking board and there are all of my recipes instead of typing in URL’s and searching endlessly. Did I mention I love to pin!

    • automaticturk says:

      Thank you! I love cooking as well, that’s why I say nothing critical about the recipes pinned on pinterest. In fact, many of my pins, too, have been about food. I can’t help it! So with food, sharing images is very different from shoes and exotic travel, as it is very doable. Also, food is a primary category and the glorious pictures make all the difference. Since 2007, I always used, actually the developers of Pinterest might have got the idea from that, because it started as a board of nicely pictured recipes. Then I started using epicurious, and lately I check is often. I also always use BBC Food, it’s very reliable, gives information about seasonal produce, etc. When it’s something doable, Pinterest becomes even more pinteresting.

  16. Well said! Agree with Loni, intent is key. Not just on Pinterest but Twitter, Facebook, all of it. 🙂

  17. Mmmmm… Bonne Maman. Good stuff 🙂
    Please come check out my blog @

  18. drakejamie says:

    I use Pinterest quite differently and I’m really enjoying it! I’ve found recipes and crafts, things to do with my family. Yes, I do pause on the occasional eye candy and possibly pin a decorating idea once in a while, but I see it as a great way to bookmark cool things I find along the way. The fact that my friends can see my pins and sometimes re-pin is just part of how the site works for me. I like sharing with each other. I hadn’t really thought about it this way, so thanks for expanding my social media perception and widening my understanding of what I am truly taking part in. Very interesting, maybe I was being a bit naive, maybe I’m just not paying attention to the same parts of it. Thanks!! I’ll be sure to read your next post on Pinterest to keep up with the social media hysteria.

  19. This is a very intelligent post! I’ve been with Pinterest for a short while, this post describes what I am doing…hmmm…

  20. Molly says:

    This is a great post! Have you ever tried explaining Pinterest to someone? “Well, it’s similar to how you can “like” things on Facebook…but it’s just pictures that you can group into different categories to show up on a “newsfeed” like Facebook…and you can “repin” things kind of like “retweeting”…” — “Well, pictures of what?” —- “oh, everything.” It sounds so LAME! And really – is there a point? No. Like you verbalized so perfectly is yup – it is us trying to show off who we think we would be if we had the means to do so, because it all comes down to stuff that we’d like to have/wear/decorate, etc. I mainly go on there for the clothes and the quotes. I don’t do it for the followers, but really as a way to pass time, get some ideas for new twists on outfits, and some good motivation/perspective when I’m in a more pensive mood. But yeah looking at it – you’d probably think – wow, this girl wants to show us how awesome of a dresser she could be….if she didn’t want to hit snooze 4x on a Monday morning and roll into work in a t shirt and jeans! 🙂 Thanks for your post, and congrats on being FP!

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