In the book Buying In, Walker quotes the experts as saying that the "new consumer" is now in control of the marketplace. We have all the information, we have the power to choose rather than a brand being foisted upon us. Really?
Walker goes on to ask:
So what would constitute proof that the consumer is "boss" and "in control" in some way that's new and unprededented? Lower credit card balances? A conspicuous absence of logoed apparel on city streets and in malls? A disappearance of consumer fads, trends, and crazes? A decreasing amount of advertising? Shrinking landfills? Bigger and more effective boycotts of unhealthy or ethically suspect products? Increased saving rates? Maybe - but of course, none of this is happening. Instead, one thing did happen between 2000 and 2006 - right as the new consumer was said to be bossing corporate America around like never before - was that the profits of Fortune 500 companies soared; indeed, companies in the "consumer staples" category of that famous index saw their profits more than double. This despite the fact that the real wages of most Americans were, at best, flat. During precisely the same period, the personal savings rate actually fell into negative territory for the first time since the Great Depression.
I don't know about you, but that depresses me. I think I need to go buy some Twinkies, or maybe some new jump-man sneaker, to make me feel better...
But here is the thing - you are in control. No, really. I may not be the trendiest guy ever (probably not even in your top 25 trendiest people you know), but my guess is that buying practically may even be its own trend. In a future post, we'll chat about Walker's point that there really isn't much difference between the products, so then it becomes a matter of which brand do I want to associate myself with.
We have so many choices, that sometimes it can be paralyzing; this is the subject of the book The Paradox of Choice. Apparently, the thought never enters our head that we don't have to buy at all.
How many boxes of stuff do you have that you never use anymore? What if you got rid of everything you didn't use in the last month? Heresy! Next week we'll chat about how to decide to buy something.
Friday, July 25, 2008
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