Consumerism Trap Essay
Consumerism it’s a trend, an atitude and an choice. According to Business Dictionary[i], consumerism can be defined on three branches.The first branch can be seen as a trend, defined as Organized-efforts by individuals, groups, and governments to help protect consumers from policies and practices that infringe consumer rights to fair business practices.
The trend aspect of the consumerism it’s linked directly with the encouraging of the consumption, of creating a safe consumption environment and a regulated competition practices and policies. Once the focus changed from the product to the customer, than to selling and to customer relationship, the customer response time became shorter and shorter, and the consuption continued to grow proportionally with the actions taken by the marketers. So, the consumerism attitude it`s in direct correlation with the marketing activism, creating customers whom are willing to buy, to have more, to consume more.
The second branch of the consumerism is the attitude branch, defined as the doctrine that ever-increasing consumption of goods and services forms the basis of a sound economy. Once the trend it`s created, once the consumer, the customer feels safe and important, once the marketing activities are a continuous factor, the consumer attitude continues to be maintained and entertained by the marketers and governments. As long as the marketer and the company continues to take action for captivating and maintaining the customers` attention, the customer will happily come into play, continuing to consume as long as the company continues to produce and to market it’s products, and as long as the company will continue to promote its products.
The customer attitude facilitate the company’s progress trough purchases’ made again and again, and the company will facilitate the diversity trough research and development trough coming with new and improved products on the market. So the consumerism, it`s not a attitude taken only by individuals making purchases’, but by individuals making purchases’ in collaboration with companies with desire and possibility to develop, to grow and to offer appropriate marketed new products.
The third branch it’s the choice to consume, defined as continual expansion of one’s wants and needs for goods and services. In other words it’s the process of satisfying unlimited wants with limited resources. Moreover, the actions taken by marketing for making wants to be perceived as needs, creates much more diversity and direction in a specific segment of a targeted market.
This is the way marketers do not only create needs, but specific, common perceived needs, which can be satisfied trough specific products and services, so that the chaotic, personalized needs to be as much as possible standardized trough choosing one of the multiple version available on the market at one time, usually not the best, but the best marketed version. Consumerism it`s not a choice whether to buy or not, but it’s a multiple choice game: what to buy, what price, when and why.
How It Works – Understanding The Unseen Forces Of The Consumerism
`Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi, quoted in E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful. The consumerism it is based on the humans needs and desires. The attitude of mass purchasing, the desire for having more, the desire for a higher lifestyle, are considered the base for economical growth. And partly this statement is truth.
The desire for more determines people develop, work harder, specialize, as Adam Smith suggested, sell more time, as Marx propound, created networks, strategies, tactics, competition, managers, marketers, and changed the whole planet in a trading metropolis, in a gigantic market. The internet, the media and other facilities, not only facilitate this, but they are used as positive reinforcements for this kind of attitudes. The two main factors that influence the consumer are the needs and wants and the consumer behavior.
Understanding Need As Need and Want As Want
The consuming choice it’s made on needs and wants criteria. Our society suffers of the disease called materialism, manifested by the inability to differentiate between needs and wants. This leads to an obsessive attitude of consumption. When talking about needs, it is important to know that not the purchases’ themselves are the satisfying factors, but the mediators between the need and it`s satisfaction. On the other hand, the wants, are satisfied directly trough acquiring things. According to Maslow, there are 5 levels of needs, as presented in the picture below, but unlimited wants.
The first level presents the physiological needs, which basically are satisfied trough purchasing of goods. The purchases’ does not represent a satisfaction itself, but they are mediators for the real need satisfaction. For example, buying food it’s not enough to quench one’s hunger, but it’s a mediator between the hunger and the need for food. Only if used appropriately, the food will satisfy the need for food and will saturate the hunger. The first-level needs are satisfied by commodities.
The first-level needs and wants, are satisfied basically trough impulse buying. The second level presents the safety and security needs. These kinds of needs are satisfied trough services. For the example, a car assurance is a mediator between the reality of a possible car accident and the financial security if such a situation will appear. The wants and needs are satisfied trough a seek-advice purchase.
The third level presents the need for love and belongingness. This need, basically it`s not created to be satisfied trough consumption, nor trough sophisticated purchases’, but talking in a postmodern context, when the consumption it`s not only a base for need satisfaction, the need for love and belongingness is satisfied trough brand and affective connections with certain products. As well, these kinds of needs are satisfied trough consuming addictive products. The third-level purchases` are satisfied trough affective attitudes towards buying. The fourth level presents the self-esteem needs.
This kind of needs, cannot be satisfied trough any kind specific purchases`. This kind of needs can be satisfied only trough personal development, trough implication in society. In this case, the perception of the purchase it`s percept trough a personalized demand, searching for customized, personalized products, which can be adapted to the personality and desires of a specific person.
This is not a mediator any more, it`s a consequence of a high esteem. So basally, the self-esteem purchase does not satisfy needs, but indicate that the fourth –level needs are present. The last level, the need for creativity, for assertion, it is impossible to be satisfied trough purchases’. Here, the purchases are only the base for personal assertion. Trough ascending in the needs pyramid, the needs become smaller and the wants become bigger. Moreover, the growth in the need pyramid it`s according to the levels, but if one level does not get beyond the need level and begin to satisfy the wants of that level, the person cannot go to the next level of needs. So, basically, the consumption does mediate directly only the first three levels of the Maslow pyramid. So it is legitimate to ask `What conditions of work, what kinds of work, what kinds of management, and what kinds of reward or pay will help human stature to grow healthy, to its fuller and fullest stature?
Classic economic theory, based as it is on an inadequate theory of human motivation, could be revolutionised by accepting the results of higher human needs, including the impulse to self-actualisation and the love for the highest values`[ii]. In other words, the higher one grows in the Maslow Pyradimid of needs, the higher the level of motivation will be, the higher the percieved self-value will be; but trough consume, the growth can be limited.
In addition to the Maslow pyramid, the hedonism popular created an wellcome scene for the consumerism. From anticient times, the good and wrong were associated with pain and pleasure; this created the context for the hedonist courent appeared nowadays. Courent based on the the greek term `hedos`which means the pleasure percieved as delight not only for the body, but even for the soul, which creates a feeling of a holistic wellness, which includes the sense, feel, think, act and relate factor. `Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain, and pleasure.
It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do.[iii]’ Viewing the pleasure as an consuming atitude dependence, it is posible to go one step further and look at the delight brought by consuming, the choice made by one to make steps for a holistic wellness, and not only to satisfying their needs. The hedonism it is divided in two basic ideologies. The first, it is the motivational hedonism which considers `that the very idea of maximum ‘pleasure over pain’ or ‘pleasure minus pain’ or ‘net pleasure’ assumes a common measure which cannot be had. Motivational hedonists can reply that one is always and only motivated by what one takes to maximize one’s pleasure over pain.
There is no implication that one always gets this right, or that any option one takes to be hedonistically non-maximizing motivates one, or even that the idea of maximizing the balance of pleasure over pain itself makes ultimate sense`[iv]The process of buying itself, in it`s structure, as complex it is tryed to be made, it is insufficient for a holistic wellness, but it`s seen as one specific way to holistic wellness. The other part it`s the appropriate use of the products and services, the self-perception and the personal development process which makes one individual feel fully satisfied. The other branch of hedonism it is normative hedonism, which bases it’s theory on one intrinsec experience. `
The intrinsic experience account claims there is something distinctive in pleasure’s intrinsic character; in its feeling, raw feel, phenomenology, quale, or hedonic tone, or in ‘what it is like’ to have such experience`[v] – Creating specific experiences for individuals, taken as separate entity, so that they can experience the delight pleasure direct and unassisted. The postmodern marketing it is based on creating the image of unique experience trough using one specific product, so that in one way or another, every person involved in the postmodern purchasing process it is more or less exposed to the hedonistic popular, being motivate to consume more, to have higher demands and bigger wish lists.
The Power Of The Consumer – Consumer Behaviour
Every consumer’s behaviour is based on the maslow pyramid, and more or less on the motivational and normative hedonism. ‘Consumer behavior refers to those acts of individuals directly involved in obtaining and using economic goods and services. Including the decisions process that precede and determine these acts.’[vi] This is the way the customer drives from the product knowing to the product aquiring, mediated by marketers, advertisers, society and culture and friends or family.
The consumer’s behaviour, has four variables, which deternime active and dynamic what, how, when and what the consumer will buy. The four variables are: the cultural factor, the social factor, the personal factor and the pychological factor of the purchcheaser. [pic]
The Cultural factor varies between coutries, areas and social structures. For the example, one approach will be appropriate in India, where the culture is very valued, the subcultures are substantiallt diferentitate and the social classes are diferentiated on castes, and one approach will be appropriate for china, for instance, where the culture is as valued, but the subcultures and social classes are not as differentiated as in India, and another approach will be used in USA, where culture is in constant changing, the sulbultures are dispersed and the social classes not differentiated, the social status being more a choice than a destiny.
The social class, nowadays, can be changed with the level of income, which may vary from few dolars per mounth, in the poor countries, where the companies serch for cheap labour, to milions to dolars per month for the top management of them. The social factior, is a variable which is more individualistic, but has an educational factor which creates common points. The referal groups, the families and the roles and structures within a culture, influences what an induvidual seas as normality, and implicitly what an individual will consume. The personal factor influences how one percives itslef as an individual, the age group, the economics, the way he administrates it`s income, the lifestyle, the self-esteem, etc.
Even if the ratio of average income is an cultural factor, the income of the individual is a personal isue which will determine one weather to buy one or another product. The psychological factor includes the motivations, the bealifs and attitudes, the learning and the perception. In this level the individual chooses if he wants a product or not, if he likes it or not, if he consider the purchese appropriate or not. The actual buying process, comes from general to specific, from cultural to individual. Let’s get back to the three type of purchase, the impulse buying, the seek-advice buying and the affective buying.
All three are based on the percieved value of the products. The value, has two basic components, the rational component and the emotional one. The rational component of the value it’s based on the fair value of the product, this means the conceptual association of the product’s price with the product benefits, which creates the value for the customer. The emotional component of the value is the equity, the trust within the company wins, the experience, which basically means the way one individual relates to the company, and the energy, the convenience of the customer to buy a product.
God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the west… keeping the world in chains. If took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.
The gap in our economy is between what we have and what we think we ought to have – and that is a moral problem, not an economic one.
The individual is a social being. The social aspect influences the individual and the individual influences the society. It is the place where the individual activates, where is being educated, where he chose his lifestyle, where he builds his family, etc. It is the place that one individual calls home, where he develops, he grows and is influenced by, and consciously or not, he influences it. As it previously was mentioned, the society is the mediator between the personal and the culture.
The culture is the base the society is constructed on. The culture influences the direction of the society, the response time to change and the development curves. The society it’s the context in which the change and the development curves are taking place. There are four main aspects of the society, which offer to it the resources to develop and the direction in which the society itself will go. The family, the lifestyle, the education and the safety are aspects that create the texture of society and offer the base to understand what way the consumerism affects the society. What implications have the mass consumerism on society is directly correlated with the environment people live in, with the aspect of normality, with the desire of safety and belongings, which untargeted could create mass waste and economical imbalance.
The Family And The Age Range
The family is the cell of society. Within families could be found the reference group, because every entity selected for a reference group is part of a family, and the roles and structures in society. Practically, the three aspects of the society are dependent by the one called family. In the family the entities grow, develop and learn. Within family the consuming habits are established and the consumption criteria developed. This is the reason why the only answer to the question ‘Why do people buy?’ is ‘I don’t know!’ The variety and the mixture of habits created in families generate diverse, personalized, demands and desires for specific consumers. The segments created within a culture, are not a result of the family, but a direct result of the marketing impact of the population be it media or promotions. Moreover, when talking about family, we talk about individuals, we talk about different age categories, about different age ranges.
The toddlers’ category, is the most exposed and vulnerable category. The time allocated for TV is higher than the time spent in school. ‘The Journal of the American Medical Association has said that children between the ages of two and seventeen watch an annual average of 15,000 to 18,000 hours of television, compared with 12,000 hours spent per year in school. Children are also major targets for TV advertising, whose impact is greater than usual.’[vii] According to Global Issues Organization[viii], toddlers and teens influence parental purchases totaling over $130-670 billion a year.
This is a big economical facility firstly for the companies that produce products and services for children, secondly for the innovation facilitating, because it facilitates the investments in research and development, fact which makes possible the appearance of new and improved products and services for children, but as well for the economical growth. Moreover, 94% of the net revenues coming from advertising aimed at children are reinvested in children’s programs[ix], sais Responsible Advertising Organization. According to the Typical Age Rage, the toddlers, can be found primarily in ‘Full Nest I’, which means family with small children, the age category being between 25 and 50, and secondary in the ‘Empty Nest’, which includes the 50 + age category, where the children are not living home; toddlers being yet the third generation. Usually a toddler lives at the moment in a ‘Full Nest I’, and has an ‘Empty Nest’ where he visits’ periodically. Both ‘Nests’ are making purchases for the toddlers.
In the European Union, revenues to television networks and producers have reached between $620 and $930 million. [x]Even if reinvested in educative programs, the children advertising is considered still harmful, some countries taking a strong position against it. For the example ‘Sweden, since 1991 has banned all advertising during children’s prime time due to findings that children under 10 are incapable of telling the difference between a commercial and a program, and cannot understand the purpose of a commercial until the age of 12.’[xi] The problem occurred was the desire of parents to satisfy their children desires, resulting in diversified purchasing, some of them legitimate and innocent, some of them exuberant and capricious, determining the parents to invest more time for making money to purchase things for their children than spending time investing in personal education. Here the values of a family are denaturized from the time spent in family, in direct interaction, in less or no time spent in the family, in indirect interaction, or in mediated interaction.
The direct interaction is the face-to-face interaction, the verbal communication that allows communicating more than information, but communicates attitudes, desires, hopes, and create a love and safe environment. The indirect, or mediated interaction is the interaction mediated by different factors, be it computer, television, or different social or board games, or by offering different attentions as a compensation of the big absences from home. The direct and indirect interactions, can create a good mix if hold in appropriate borders. The consume society and the consumerism attitudes, encourages more and more the indirect interaction, because the mediators of the action can be purchased, and can generate revenues.
The interaction between parents and children or between children and children appears to be harmfully if not maintained a good equilibrium between the two interaction types. Moreover, the satisfaction of the children desires can be destructive because children do not have the insight to differentiate the constructive purchases from the distractive ones, the only count up factor being the fun factor. This is not only unsafe for them as individuals, but produce waste created by unused facilities and benefits of the products, damaging the products or damaging themselves.
‘The children’s market works because it lives off of deeply-held beliefs about self-expression and freedom of choice—originally applied to the political sphere, and now almost inseparable from the culture of consumption. Children’s commercial culture has quite successfully usurped kids’ boundless creativity and personal agency, selling these back to them—and us—as “empowerment,” a term that appeases parents while shielding marketers.’[xii]
The adult consumer, positioned between the ‘Bachelor’ and the ‘Empty Nest II’ is the fully developed consumer, aged over 21. Here, the segment varies between necessities, preferences and income. The necessities and preferences are presented in the chapter ‘Understanding Need As Need And Want As Want’. The consumption of products and services to satisfy needs and wants has profound implications in the social and economical area. From a social point of view, the massive reinforcement of consumption stimulates values such as materialism, egoism and emotional addiction to several products. The loyalty in itself has a positive connotation, but the emotional purchases are not impulse, nor rational purchases, but a distinct criteria, base more on emotional factors such as trust, belongingness or image.
This kind of purchase along with impulse buying exposes the consumer to the risk of buying inappropriate items. This phenomenon is called misspurchase. The misspurchase phenomenon is defined by unpleased customers, unpleased not because of an unfulfilled promise, but because of the inappropriate use of the product or service. This not only that produce waste, but creates more skeptical individuals, which determines a growth in the response time of the market. On the social side, this combination of infinite wants, growing relativities and vertical aspirations has created unstable but not happier societies. Studies of the long term relationship between material living standards and subjective fulfillment have shown that individual satisfaction grew in the post-war years but has risen only slowly or leveled off since then.
But if inappropriate purchases bring dissatisfaction, on the other side, people justify purchases as being about pure pleasure. New body lotions, flowers, books clothes, wine, and gourmet food, all offer a pleasurable experience for the consumer, thus the pleasure justifier transformers the desire for an item into a need because the pleasure the item will deliver. In other words the shopper sais: I need a little excitement, stimulation and pleasure in my life right now, so I will buy this [weather at the moment strikes one as promising that pleasure].
There are several situations when one justifies the transformation of the desire into need, as presented in the book ‘Shopping: why we love it and how retailers can create the ultimate customer’[xv]: special occasions, beautify self or home, pleasure, education, relaxation and stress relief, entertainment, replacing worn items, and emotional satisfaction. In itself, the transformation of the desire into need, it is a pleasurable fact, but, when the action of purchase gets over its limits – either of budget, either of functionality – then the process of consumption becomes dangerous and can be harmful.
Another danger in the way of consumer, is the purchasing of over budget products and services, primarily because the cost of a product and service is according to the maintenance costs; the result will be a continuous over budgeting, which will bring sooner or later at bankruptcy, or will result in an inaccessible to use product, which will make an unworthy investititon and will determine an unwished imbalance in ones economics. At scale, this phenomenon, creates waste, and can decline in serious economical gaps.
Consumption habits may alter as a consequence of either an innovation in the use of resources or a modification in the pattern of gratifications. The position adopted here, is that the latter has an intimate connection with the instability of wants than the former.