Archive for consumerism

Consumer kids; sponges and spikes

Posted in business, Marketing, advertising, ethics with tags , , , on May 2, 2013 by marketingheart

The past 30 years or so have seen an explosion of consumerism in the West with all that entails, good and bad. As it spills into new markets, the world has changed because of it,  physically, politically and sociologically.

Whilst economic activity has lifted millions out of poverty, there have been great costs. I personally think it’s valid to characterise the era in some respects as one of profits vs people. There have been victories on both sides but overall, profits have won. Look at wealth distribution as evidence of this – in the West, it’s never been greater (see video at end of this post).

A symptomatic front line in the profits vs people battle is online user-generated review sites, once touted to be the consumer’s best friend, now shown to have been infiltrated by corporate interests. The potential for the internet to truly democratise consumption by ensuring price transparency and giving consumers free voice has not – unsurprisingly – been embraced by business.

When I look at brands gathering hundreds of thousands of Facebook Friends, I wonder about gen XY and Z’s  mindlessly enthusiastic, utterly uncritical and apparently bottomless appetite for sponging up marketing. Tons of research shows how ‘marketing savvy’ kids are, but the amazing thing is that doesn’t stop them for one second. The idealism of Rock n Roll has been replaced by the rampant greed of hip-hop. “Get Rich or Die Tryin” sang rapper 50 Cent. And he nearly did – die tryin’ that is (he was shot nine times in 2000).

But not everybody is so complicit. Whatever you might say about its focus and effectiveness, the Occupy movement gave temporary voice to deep unrest. And if you look around, you will see lots of kids thinking a little more deeply about marketing, spiking and popping dishonesty and manipulation when they detect it. And sharing. Here’s an example I’d like to celebrate.

My personal conviction is that marketers carry enormous responsibilities, maybe more than politicians. People need to keep both kinds of bastards honest  for similar reasons.  Both have voting constituents (in the case of businesses it’s consumers exercising buying decisions) who need to be wary of being spoonfed the corporate line, and there needs to be as much informed debate around business as politics. Unfortunately that is simply not the case, so it’s good to see kids like this getting wise to the ways of the world.

Perhaps the new cry should be “Unhitch … or Die Buyin'”.


The advertiser that tells us not to buy anything – a message to click frenzy marketers

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , , , on November 23, 2012 by marketingheart

Would you spend media dollars just to tell people NOT to buy your product?  Well, let me ask you the question a different way…has a strategist ever told you that to stand out and be noticed by customers you need to be different? And – be honest now – how earth-shatteringly different did the resulting strategy really make you? Shades of grey? Thought so.
No such subtleties for Patagonia, that most rare of things – a conviction driven brand. During the peak US retail events Black Friday and Cyber Monday ( which inspired Australia’s flawed Click Frenzy event), Patagonia took advantage of the consumerist environment not to push its wares, but to ask shoppers to give some thought about their purchasing behaviours.  Here’s the ad.

On it’s site Patagonia explained (and it’s worth reproducing at length):  “Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time – and leave a world inhabitable for our kids – we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.


The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2® Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste. And this is a 60% recycled polyester jacket, knit and sewn to a high standard; it is exceptionally durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often. And when it comes to the end of its useful life we’ll take it back to recycle into a product of equal value. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything. Go to, take the Common Threads Initiative pledge”.

You are what you buy; the morality of consumption

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by marketingheart

In “The Global Markets As An Ethical System”, Philosopher and ethicist  John McMurtry argues that there is no purchasing decision that does not itself imply some moral choice, and that there is no purchasing that is not ultimately moral in nature.

So, if you decide to buy a pair of shoes that costs $400 instead of buying a pair for $300 and sending the remaining $100 that clearly you have no serious need of to save several African childrens’ lives, you have made a fairly serious moral decision. Given that the extra $100 provided you with no functional improvement but instead maybe a style that you preferred or a brand that made you feel good, you have put these – lets face it – shallow  considerations ahead of the life of fellow humans.

Andrew Wilson, Director of the UK’s Ashridge Centre for Business and Society argues that “Shopping is more important than voting”, and others that the disposition of money is the most basic role we play in any system of economics. Some theorists believe that it is the clearest way that we express our actual moral choices, i.e., if we say we care about something but choose to spend discretionary money on things which don’t benefit or even harm it, we have shown through our hypocrisy that don’t really care about it.

This is something many of us do every day, which is pretty nuts if you think about it. Even more disturbing is that if we stop doing it our economic system collapses, so reliant is it on maintaining current levels of consumption at any cost. The widespread application of moral criteria to consumption would require a shift away from commodity markets towards a deeper service economy where all activities, from growing to harvesting to processing to delivery, are considered part of the value chain and for which consumers are “responsible”.

But consumers would need to drive such change.

Perhaps there are more constructive things consumers can do than  of getting 0utraged about Gap’s or Strabuck’s new logo. (Vehement consumer response forced Gap to trash its new logo design).

Boycott a retailer because you don’t like its new logo but don’t worry about its workplace practices, its ethical behaviour, its carbon footprint, its recycling programs, its investment decisions? What does this say about us?

For those interested in ethical or conscious consumption you could start here.


Thanks for the images

The Story of Stuff

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2010 by marketingheart

The Story of Stuff

Image by net_efekt via Flickr

I’m a great big, huge fan. I even sat my kids down and made them watch it. Everybody should.

Annie Leonard is a genius communicator. Makes sense of the world and really incentivises taking personal action.

For an interesting take on the ethics of non-consumption, this is worth reading (‘To Buy or not to Buy’ by Dr Amanda McLeod for the St James Ethics Centre)
The Story of stuff, a must-watch