1/22/2005

Yellow Ribbons Everywhere

In the article “Bumper to Bumper” by Giddings, he comments on the wide use of ribbons on vehicles. Giddings refers to another article “Consumed” by Rob Walker; Walker believes that the ribbons make a declaration about what kind of person has a ribbon on their car. So who cares if your yellow ribbon says that you support our troops. Could it be that those who ride around with their magnetic bows on their cars are saying “I have a husband, wife, son, daughter or a family member who is out there protecting yours and my freedom.
The real economics behind this “yellow ribbon magnet” affair is that someone came up with the idea that a yellow ribbon symbolizes our support for the troops and created a demand for it. This demand is making money for several companies. These five dollar “hot” items have made both consumers and business people alike happy. Isn’t that how our economy should be? It’s not a matter of a particular statement a person it trying to make. It’s about capitalizing off of something the public wants.

11 comments:

salty said...

I agree, that is why our economy is the greatest, because you can exploit people and times to make a profit. Is the profit going to any sort of fund to support soldier's families? If the company who created a demand for the ribbons were donating the money, like the Lance Armstrong band is, it would be honorable.

Keston said...

I couldn’t get the link to the article “Consumed” to work, but from reading the article “Bumper to Bumper” by Giddings, I think I can comment on the article. In the article “Bumper to Bumper” Giddings was quoting from Noam Chomsky and he said that when people bear these yellow magnets on their cars that they are saying to fellow drivers, “I implore you to support our troops.” I don’ think that’s the message every driver is trying to convey. When I see one of those magnets on a car, I take it as, that driver supports our troops, but that I don’t have too. I agree with Luise that maybe they are supporting a husband, wife, brother, sister, or other family member who is out serving, not telling me that I have to support the troops. I do agree with Walker that it is hard to figure out what some declarations mean, but when I see a yellow ribbon, I don’t take it as that driver is requesting me to support our troops. I guess it all depends on how you decipher that driver’s declaration, whether it is a yellow ribbon or the mud flap girl.

Drake said...

The benefit of the yellow ribbons has a much greater economic impact than any of us realize. Not only are the companies that market these cheap magnets making a bundle of money, but the war itself is being publicized by making the statement of supporting the troops. I beleive the economic impact that that may have is almost immeasureable. By the way the money from these yellow ribbons should be donated to families who have lost their loved ones because of the war.

Nick said...

I think it all depends on where you buy your ribbon. May be not everyone is making a profit, they are trying to raise a little money to help the individuals that are in Iraq. I know in my home town our local American Legion Auxiliary was selling the ribbons to make money that went directly to the men and women that are defending our freedoms.

Dr. Tufte said...

This is a really cool post - it's one of those "who knew there was economics here" things.

One thing that's going on is that the idea of using a ribbon systematically (faux or real) reduces the marginal cost for the ribbon-wearer to get their point across to others. For example, you don't have to wear a t-shirt with big type saying "I care about yada yada yada" if everyone knows what your yellow or pink ribbon means.

Secondly, the makers of both cloth ribbons for shirts and magnetic ones for cars have made them cheap as well. Again, this reduces the marginal cost to the wearer of sending that message.

I think this also points to a flaw in Salty's comment - might it not be honorable just to provide a cheaper way for people to express those sentiments? The others follow this lead to push for donations of profits from selling these things, and I think that's a bit naive. If you've made it easier for other people to send their message, and they have gotten an increased consumer surplus out of that, then how are you obligated to donate your surplus? What I'm driving at is that by making these things available cheaply, the producers are actually the first people in the chain doing a good deed. It would be a good deed even if no one bought them. So, the argument that they should donate their profits is saying that because you did a good deed, that helped other people do a good deed, you should have any benefits you made taken away (because this is related to some other nasty situation). This is sort of like fuming at the driver in front of you who stopped to let a boy scout help a senior citizen across the street. We all do that occassionally, but just because it is common doens't make it right.

P.S. Remember to take your magnetic ribbon off your car before you go in the car wash.

Jones said...

I completely understand the concept of capatilizing off of something the public wants. That is how business works and that is what keeps our economy alive. However, I do believe there is something morally wrong when it comes to capitalizing off of something a little more controversial such as people volunteering their lives and dying for our country. This whole yellow ribbon scenario reminds me of the sudden appearance of millions of tiny American flags after the September 11th incident. It seemed that all of the sudden patriotism became a money making "trend" instead of something that should have been there all along. I agree that the money that is being made off of the yellow ribbons should be donated to the family members of the war heros who have died. Just as the money being made from selling all of those mini-American flags should have, if it wasn't already, been donated to those who lost loved ones on September 11th.

scott said...

When I read this blog I related it to what I had just read in my Managerial Economics book about the Frictional Theory of Profit. It says that "profits arise as a result of friction or disturbances from long-run equilibrium." In English, I think that means that all of the profit that the makers of these ribbons were making initially will be cut into by competition, and, in the long run, will only provide a normal return. That explains why the cost is going down.

Emily said...

I think that the yellow ribbon is just a fad to make money off a popular topic to the average business man. Yet, to the person that puts the yellow ribbon on thier car it truely means more. It's a statement that they care about what is happening in today's world. That they support the men and women that are fighting and dying as I write this. They are supporting the families that will never get to see or hug their loved one ever again.
I see that the demand is being made from the support and thats what makes money and business work, but it would be nice if most of the money could go to the troops and their families.

Emily said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sierra said...

"Bumper to Bumper" is a very interesting article. I would like to say, "everything has a price, whether it be of good or bad." I would also like to disagree with salty's comment because obviously it costs money to make these ribbons. And by giving all profits to donation, the person loses the profit plus the money tha was put in to make these ribbons. I think it is a great business venture because people can show that they support their troops. I don't think salty's comment was bad because if the people selling these ribbons can afford to donate all the profits, then I think that would be a very good thing. My whole point is that most things, if not everything, costs something.

Jane said...

I agree with Dr. Tufte. Why should they have their profits taken away from them for doing a good deed? Being a former military spouse, and currently having someone very dear to me sitting in an "Undisclosed Location" of Iraq, the support of people means much more than money ever could.

The same with the flags after 9/11 that Jones brought up. Personally, I don't care what happened to my money for my little flag (or my magnet), I was able to express a patriotism I wasn't previously able to express. In addition, the sight of all those flags brought tears to my eyes, a great sense of pride in being an American, and a deep sadness for those lost. Yes, it's sad that a tragedy must occur to bring us around to remembering where we came from and how easily everything we know could be lost in an instant ... but those who are making a profit providing us with those things are still doing a great thing. If they didn't, who would?