This is the third installment of our ongoing series, Lovers and Outlaws. Dive into the deep end with Part 1 here and Part 2 over here.

Since diving into the complex realm of modern consumerism, I find myself decoding what drives our collective shopping choices and unveils deeper aspects of our identity.  The late Virgil Abloh once said, “Let’s not build buildings; let’s look for outlets.” which brings me to my next subject on singles and how their buying habits correlate to dating, dupes, and being apologetically “delulu.” 

If you’re new to Lovers and Outlaws, it’s a series that explores how our purchase decisions are symbolic of one's relationship status. In this post, my goal is to spill the tea on how our relationship status intertwines with our shopping habits because, in this era of endless possibilities, the way we consume says a lot about who we're swiping right on. 

The modern single person is hypnotized by TikTok-induced impulse-buys, from dupe-hunting to flexing. This results in real “retail psychology” choices that also make us delusional about our dating decisions.

“Main Character Energy” is giving Need Recognition

Once, a tech bro told me with the utmost seriousness that "Kirkland is luxury."  The question of whether Kirkland is the ultimate dupe or a symbol of subtle opulence remains shrouded in mystery, but what remains true is his dating profile on Tinder, which gave Android's leading character energy.

It's as if they're shouting, "Notice me, senpai!" with every purchase, whether a subtle whisper or an outright scream for attention. 

Purchasing habits are signals for the type of a person someone is — or at least wants to portray. Suppose we aren’t aware of someone’s buying behaviors. In that case, suitable alternatives abound — scrolling through photos they post on dating apps, IG, or even Linkedin can give us context clues on who they are as consumers. This is especially true for millennials and Gen Z.    

This is the "NEED RECOGNITION" phase of consumerism.

Remember way back in Part 1, we covered the stages of modern consumerism? As a refresher, they are: 

  • Need Recognition
  • Information Search
  • Evaluation of Alternatives
  • Purchase Decision
  • Post-Purchase Evaluation

Online daters and app surfers come in and start flexing as marketers thrive on selling the next best thing since avocado toast.  This archetypal behavior consists of trendsetters chasing after dupes, the ones who've heard whispers that a must-have item is probably fake and not worth it, but are still determined to grab it for themselves so they can flex. It's as if they're shouting, "Notice me, senpai!" with every purchase, whether a subtle whisper or an outright scream for attention. 

The modern decline in marriage has shifted how advertisers communicate with their customers.

TikTok is the perfect place to explore the latest cultural discourse. Double-clicking into the world of dupes, today’s singles have no concept of budgeting in a post-COVID world. Many people of the younger generations consider themselves “regular rich,” a term used to describe people in the income bracket of doctors and lawyers. Combined with the culture's fixation on everything expensive, hot, and cool-factor — we have a distorted sense of entitlement that has permanently impacted our increasingly digital personas.

The Decline in Marriage Drives a Shift in Advertising

The modern decline in marriage has shifted how advertisers communicate with their customers. For one, you can no longer assume that people are married. Multiple studies have found that brands targeting singles have achieved better results in their marketing and advertising campaigns.

There was a time when I read brand briefs and proposals for Fortune 500 companies who specifically wanted to spend six-figure marketing budgets on targeting “lifestyle enthusiasts.”  In retrospect, they wanted to reach the modern “delulu”; people who are looking for love on date-me-docs. People with high standards but shoestring budgets that result in purchasing so many dupe products that one video on a TikTok Get-Ready-With-Me (GRWM) incites even more dopamine.

This is where dating, dupes, and being delulu intersect into a consumer’s personal highlight reel.

Often, singles' views of the world are shrouded in must-have products to buy for a date, to refresh their dating profiles, or for a casual coffee run. The need to purchase products for different occasions diminishes their purchasing power, and conflates their sense of value.

In our previous post, you’ll see that purchasing power for couples depends on household income, and who earns more dictates purchasing decisions. For singles, it’s lifestyle-related and driven by being delulu enough to bring whatever they want to live just by acting like they already have it.

You heard it here: Millennials think cosplaying as rich is a form of manifesting.

The whole “quiet luxury aesthetic” trend is very delulu, because dressing like your *dream tax bracket*will surely manifest itself. Yet luxury brands expect their quarterly earnings to grow with every new marketing push. Remember that the same delulu people are now defaulting on their buy-now-pay-later loans. Yikes.

Inside Single People’s Notes App: From Dupe-Hunting to Impulse Buys

I digress… don’t swipe right on someone because you noticed they had a bottle of Aesop soap in the bathroom.  Don’t also discredit people who buy dupes as unattractive.  Like the endless swiping on niche dating apps, the dupes keep it interesting; and provide room in your life for things that actually matter. Does your soap brand matter? Maybe.

Lastly, for brands interested in tapping into the “single and satisfied” sensation or “80’s Yuppies” main-character energy,  this article in Contagious uncovers how marketing strategies for singles provide a wealth of inspiration for creative directors.

If you're swiping through dating apps looking for your next partner in crime to stroll the grocery store aisles with, take the time to ask more important questions like, “what does this person’s digital identity say about who they are as an individual?” Or, “what is it they want me to feel, and what does that say about them?” 

Maybe you’ll discover something about yourself in the process.

Until next time, keep shopping, swiping, and purchasing based on the vibes.