Consumerism. What’s Your First Reaction?

June 6, 2008 at 4:52 am 4 comments

My guess is that it might have caused a slight wrinkle in the face and a sigh of stress? confusion? frustration? I offer that more and more…it should bring a smile. Consumerism is not just about what you consume, but about the choice (and power) you have as well.

Been meaning to post on this topic for a while, but a discussion I had at a friend’s gathering the other day prompted me to post. (Plus, a recent article regarding the optimistic power of consumerism found by a colleague of mine). The conversation circled around consumerism and capitalism….leisurely, get-to-know you chit-chat right…lol

But I was listening to two new friends, acquaintances really, debate consumerism versus capitalism:

  • Are they the same thing?
  • Does one breed the other?
  • Is one better than the other?
  • How to stop it, can we stop it?

Etc., etc., etc….you can only imagine. How many of us have found ourselves in these slightly awkward conversations over the weekend, when all you want to do is relax and make friends. Truth is, I secretly LOVE these conversations. Yup, I’m one of ‘them.’ I love the people who are open to talking about how they feel about the things that really matter, especially those amongst my generation. We do DO more than check Facebook 10 times a day, ;).

Onward. Fact is, I enjoy listening to these conversations because they get my mind tinkering and fueled. After each person shared their viewpoint, I offered this:

Nowadays, the power is transferring from the organization or company to the consumer. Consumerism in today’s terms is increasingly more powerful than it’s given credit. We are all consumers. We all have a choice in the types of services, types of products, types of media we support. Think about the power we have as individuals, let alone when communities and groups surround a movement!”

The best I’ve heard what I’m trying to communicate was at my grad school graduation where Ken Paulson, Editor and Sr. Vice President of USA Today, told my class:

“You are not going to change the world…You already have.”

He went on to explain how the Millennial generation changed the world when they decided they didn’t want to have to pay for music. Or, when they made new phrases like brb, lol and ttyl become common. He also went on to describe the danger we in the media landscape – from advertisers, to journalists, broadcasters, etc – create by referring to ourselves as: The Media. What IS that anyway? The media.

Mr. Paulson, I applaud your speech and would love a copy if you ever read this. It very much reflects what my own master’s research reiterates. There was a time when ‘the media’ (whatever that is) was not a business…and when it was a public service. If you don’t think so, research 1776 or the first newspaper, Publick Occurances. Or, recall Walter WIlliams’ infamous Journalist’s Creed. Or, email/comment me, and let’s have a conversation. 😉

Thus, I leave you with this: What’s your choice? Where do you stand?

Skeptical? Check out Joseph Jaffe’s post and what his power as a consumer is doing to Delta Airlines…at this point, not sure who I feel worse for: Jaffe, or the PR mess Delta is now in, lol. Wow.


As an FYI: My research is being presented at the 1st World Social Marketing Conference this upcoming September in Brighton, England. There’s more to it than this paragraph, and it’s not quite publication ready yet. Let me know if you’ll be there, and hopefully, we can meet! =)

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Entry filed under: Blog Talk, Experience This?, Identity Crisis, Interesting Articles. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Vanessa  |  June 7, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks for the comment at my site. I just joined Twitter. I am @vanessamason.

    I love these types of conversations that matter too! It is just a bit more difficult for me to have them here in Spanish! I do agree with you that we are all consumers now. The democratization of consumerism has made us all producers as well. We can blog, create podcasts and vidcasts, and share information through social networking. Even leaving comments on sites allows us to shape the visibility of news.

    I think this new consumerism has created a new sort of accountability because you can make the choice about what you consume in terms of information. It’s no longer the decision of “the media.” Great post! Good luck with the thesis and the presentation this summer.

  • […] ‘bonus host post’ here, as it follows up well with Mr. Viator’s idea. In my post Consumerism. What’s Your First Reaction?, I too coin my own term ‘optimistic consumerism,’ explaining that with changing media […]

  • 3. Ethical Shopper  |  June 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    I agree that the power is moving increasingly to the consumer, although we must never underestimate the power of the big players. We as consumers, are no longer readily absorbing the branding messages delivered by a companies’ marketing team and advertising agency. We are seeking the “truth” about companies and Web 2.0 has provided a great platform to achieve this. Overall, it is a great result as corporations become more accountable for their actions.

  • 4. Poppy  |  June 10, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Nowadays, the power is transferring from the organization or company to the consumer.

    I have to disagree with this, and I think in so doing, I will give answers to the questions that you asked as well.

    The big elephant in the room that never gets discussed in conversations about consumerism is that the consumer doesn’t get to select what the choices will be. We only get to choose between choices which have already been provided.

    In terms of choosing products to buy, stores to shop at, etc – the company still controls whether we will be able to choose between A, B, or C.

    In terms of where to get our information, you may be right, due to the proliferation of the internet and the slowness of companies in catching up to commercialize it. It’s not a static place we’re in, though, and I’m not going to try and guess where it will go next.

    One example that I saw of this addressed women and girls’ issues specifically, debunking the claims that females now are “empowered” because we can “choose” to buy lots of “empowering” slogans on our t-shirts. But if you actually look at the clothing lines offered by some companies, the “choices” range from t-shirts reading “Angel” to t-shirts reading “Porn Star” – not a wide variety of options.

    Has power shifted? Perhaps. But there’s still this big elephant in the room of who provides the choices, how they’re advertised, etc etc etc.


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Meet Alexandra Rampy, aka SocialButterfly

I am a social marketing believer, blogger, practitioner, researcher and enthusiast. This site highlights the growing movement of social marketing. Learn more about social marketing and how to be your own socialbutterfly--> here.

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