Are You a Responsible Consumer?

In the wake of the recent changes in the marketing trends, the scrutiny has shifted from the buyer to the seller. To use some technical jargon; the focus has shifted from “Caveat Venditor” (buyers beware) to “Caveat Emptor” (sellers beware). This simply means that the sellers are required to bear in mind the needs of the buyer and his levels of satisfaction while manufacturing the product and while marketing the same. Buyers are aware of the market trends and the numerous options available to them. This means that the seller now has the responsibility to provide the best product in the market to be able to keep his business afloat amidst the competition. It is this nature that has transformed the marketing strategies of all businesses. At the present time, it is not viable to just popularise the existence of the product that is being manufactured, but it should also be capable of persuading the consumer into choosing that product over the various other similar options.

To give you a real-life instance, IBM made the first ever smartphone in the year 1992 and the market for smartphones has been expanding ever since. Blackberry sold its first device in 1999 and they held their ground for almost a decade after that. The subsequent significant trendsetters in the market were the emergence of the iPhones in the year 2007 and Android phones in the year 2008. They have both held significant market shares of the smartphone industries in the last decade. How did Apple continue to thrive in the market when a far cheaper counterpart was available for roughly the same amount of time?

This is where the behaviour of consumerism comes into play. According to Wikipedia, consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever increasing amounts. In much simpler terms, consumerism is basically how individuals react to companies that sell products or services that we need. It is also this behaviour that fuels capitalism, considering that anybody is free to buy anything they want if they have the money. Going back to the previous question that I left unanswered, Apple has been able to thrive in the ever-growing smartphone market and continues to stay at the top because they have been selling to their customers a user experience unlike others. They have marketed an interface that is quintessential and unmatched to this day, amassing a brand value like no other. The price to pay for this experience is very high; falling bait to raging consumerism.

In Apple’s case, they marketed their product to be a status symbol which is how they manage to outsell everyone in the market, because there is always someone who wants to prove they are superior in this generation. Over the years, marketing became the most important step in the manufacturing process. It did not matter what product was being sold, it mattered how the consumers reacted to the product. Advertisements were meant to make you want something you did not need. They were required to glorify the necessity of the product in ways the consumer does not realise he is being manipulated into buying something. But it’s not only ads that persuade you to buy some things, there are other societal pressures that do that too. For instance, some people buy popcorn during movie intervals because everybody is doing it. An action that is repeated so many times becomes socially acceptable and then, slowly becomes an act socially required to be accepted, in this case: consumption of products you do not need. Do you see what a vicious circle that is?

The effects of this consumption are interspersed. Over-consumption of resources cause global inequality, meaning that the rich keep consuming and the poor cannot afford it. More than a decade ago it was recorded that 59% of the world resources were consumed by the wealthiest 10% of the population. These statistics really puts everything in perspective. The numbers are grossly unsettling but is not the worst effect of consumption yet.

In the year 2004, the global consumer class consisted of 1.7 billion people according to certain reports published by Nat Geo. With the rising disposable income levels of middle-class families in India alone, has given the purchasing power for a major portion of the middle class and lower middle-class families to be in the consumer class. This can give you a rough idea of the increase in demand and supply for goods and services. Catering to these demands causes resource depletion and pollution. Freshwater, fossil fuels, gold and diamonds are all examples of depleting resources. The processes of manufacturing causes emissions of pollutants, excessive land use, deforestation and in the end, it accelerates climate change.

It is in the nature of human beings to want to be socially accepted and involved. Learning what is at stake for the environment owing to the revolution in the consumer behaviour, it takes not an entire society, but one person to initiate a change. A responsible consumer is financially literate and well aware of his requirements. He does not make any impulsive buying decisions and does not fuel the raging consumerism.

Are you a responsible consumer? Do you really need what you’re buying right now?

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