Rethinking consumerism in middle of the sales season

[This post is a direct reaction to today’s shopping trip after having discussed quality of online marketing material with our account managers at work. Let me endorse the use of quality and information. Also in online ads. La versión española se encuentra aqui.]

In Spain las rebajas (for Catalunya: las rebaixes) traditionally start on January 7th, after the three wise magi dutifully left their full-price-bought presents for the kids. Some provinces (Comunidades Autonomas) even incentivized the shops to start the sales as soon as January 1st. The shops and the government are hoping to revive the economy and at least slow down the negative effects which the economic crisis still yields in Spain. However with the currently highes unemployment rate in Europe, the spendings will most likely be as low or even lower than in 2009. So when I went to the city center this morning to stock up on ecological detergents (which you don’t get everywhere), I wasn’t really surprised to see more people than usual, but nothing resembling the pre-Christmas crowds in December. So people will spend less. They will probably assess very well what they need and hopefully set a budget to avoid overspending on the credit card yet again.

However, isn’t encouraging commerce to start the sales period earlier and to simply offer higher discounts the wrong tactic? Officially the Spanish government, who is currently holding the EU Presidency until July 1st, wants to promote a new economic model. But wouldn’t this also include a new way of consumerism?

Currently the idea seems to be that the cheaper the better. Most advertising in TV or newspapers relies on prices, discounts, vouchers. Supermarkets invest into “marcas blancas” (white label products), and the price is always the first thing asked in shops.

I don’t care if this product solves my problem, it just has to be cheap? Why does nobody (at least no Spanish companies) markets with quality? With innovation? Why don’t they take the consumer serious and give her some background information on why their product is the best apart from the price.

Of course, consumers have only so much money to spend, but who says they need to buy the same amount of stuff, just at a lower price (which often entails lower quality)? Check out Colleen’s blog on how to live on a low budget and still having fun and being healthy. But she couldn’t have done it with information. And information is also a part of marketing.

Therefore, I demand

  • Dear consumers, please ask questions! Where does the input material for this product come from? If I am paying a higher price because I love the label: what has the company done to deserve the love: do they engage into ethical work behavior? Do they use sustainable production methods? (The ISO 14001 certification might be an indication)? Because hey, we can find 100,000 other options out there. So from time to time, check your options and choose wisely.
  • Dear government, please be consistent in your message! Encourage thoughtful purchase behavior instead of sending everybody off to sales. And practice it yourself, as you are one of the most important employees and customer in many countries. Give out out information about best practices to governments, inform the citizens, and do not look away when environmental laws are infringed just to keep the company.
  • Dear producers, please think about what you do! Don’t just be nice to get more clients (of course you can leverage this as well, but it shouldn’t be the only reason). Find a cause that makes sense to you and develop and implement sustainable production methods into your company. There is always a better way to do things. Even if it has been done like this forever.
  • Dear retailers, please offer at least one alternative! Why do I have to go to a specialized supermarket to get eggs from free-bred hens? Why don’t you even give me the choice to choose an alternative to the battery eggs? It is too easy to just say that people do not want those alternatives.
  • And last but not least: dear marketers, don’t just attach the price and the possibilities of financing my purchase into your message! You can do better. Go deeper. Ask your clients which other features can be highlighted. The company is ISO 14001 certified? Say it! The product has the EU eco seal? Make fuss about it and name the awesomeness. The washing machine is especially water and energy saving? Don’t just say “It’s AAA”, but use clear examples like “this washing machine uses 5 l less than an average AAA machine which will make you save more than xxx l each year”.

Consumers are not only clients/customers. They are persons. They are perfectly capable of assimilating information and thinking things through on their own. So please take us serious!

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