In the last ten years the consumer has taken on a powerful role, shaping the market through choice for Fairtrade products, Organic Foods or simply by not buying from a particular company, because of their working-conditons or environmental policies. Health-conscious consumers have given rise to the demand for transparency about ingredients and the production process. Sheer desire for the product has declined as a factor in decision making and companies have become much more concerned about their public image, which has resulted in massive PR-Campaigns but also in changes in cooperate behaviour. While brand attributes such as “exclusive” went down 60% attributes such as “socially responsible” were up 63%.
Don’t get too comfortable in your consumer chair… Consumer’s Rest Chair 1990 by Frank Schreiner
Even the recession and the smaller amount of disposable cash on their hands has not stopped people from buying sustainable and responsible products rather than going for the cheapest. Society has become much more aware and informed about how to use their shopping basket to make a point, and companies have learned to watch their step
Social Media has certainly played a big part in this shift against reckless capitalism and forcing companies to a higher commitment to purpose not just profit. Primarily regarded by companies as a new marketing tool it has soon become apparent that facebook, twitter & Co. are also used in the service of substantive political reform.
Although awareness of the importance of locally produced products and local businesses has risen, the debate still evolves very much around big cooperations and their behaviour. But the power of the consumer could have a much bigger impact if people would think “smaller”.
Newspapers are full of complaints about the diminishing (independent) book stores but a growing majority still orders on amazon. The same goes for closing libraries, that no one takes books out. Vanishing local cinemas create an outrage over greedy Hollywood but at the same time consumers rather stay home illegally downloading films from the internet. Almost the same is true for magazines and newspapers. No one really wants to see the disappearance of the variety of (more or less) reliable news and opinions, yet hardly anyone in the younger generation is willing to pay for a newspaper or for online services.
Everybody thinks local clothes, jewelry designers are great but then everybody runs off to H&M for their earrings and T-shirts. It might seem more expensive at first sight but supporting the things you love in your area will always pay off more than giving your money to a (even a responsible) coperation. It makes the place you live in an exciting an enjoyable place to be in, rather than draining it from all its creative power. It supports your community and creates (your) jobs and most importantly it keeps the film, fashion, bar culture you like alive.