Consumerism and Marketing Concepts

1 January 2017

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts. The term is often associated with criticisms of consumption starting with Thorstein Veblen. Veblen’s subject of examination, the newly emergent middle class arising at the turn of the twentieth century, comes to full fruition by the end of the twentieth century through the process of globalization. 1] Sometimes, the term “consumerism” is also used to refer to the consumerists movement, consumer protection or consumer activism, which seeks to protect and inform consumers by requiring such practices as honest packaging and advertising, product guarantees, and improved safety standards. In this sense it is a movement or a set of policies aimed at regulating the products, services, methods, and standards of manufacturers, sellers, and advertisers in the interests of the buyer. [2] In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies placing emphasis on consumption.

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The latest consumerism movement is a cause that has been accumulating momentum for over 30 years in the U. S. , and its disciples assert that all consumers have an inherent right to products which are: safe in use (and even misuse), effective for the use designed, economical, reliable, honestly labeled and advertised, and benign in their impacts upon the environment. Moreover, consumerists have been very proactive in seeing that these “rights” are guaranteed to individual consumers, either by the firms selling the products, or by the government of this country.

Adherents of consumerism tend to believe that businesses are so overwhelmingly motivated by the desire to make a profit that they commonly compromise the quality of the product offerings, thereby jeopardizing the safety of consumers. Consumerists cite examples of this “greed,” such as the Beech-Nut case involving the sale over 10 years of millions of cases of “apple juice” which was in reality only sweetened, flavored water (Business Week, 1988).

The fact that such a large number and variety of these cases exist and continue to be exposed on a regular basis lends a great deal of credibility to the consumerism movement and its underlying assumptions. In explaining the rise of consumerism, Peter Drucker blamed the marketers for failing their consumers and publics in using the marketing concept: We have asked ourselves where in the marketing concept consumerism fits or belongs. I have come to the conclusion that, so far, the only way one can really define it within the total marketing concept is as the shame of the total marketing concept.

It is essentially a mark of failure of the concept… (Drucker, 1969) This quote is now famous to marketing practitioners, scholars, and critics alike, and the legitimacy of Drucker’s view is generally conceded. In the same year that Drucker made this accusation, Business Week (1969) also asserted that “In the very broadest sense, consumerism can be defined as the bankruptcy of what the business schools have been calling the ‘marketing concept. ‘ These condemnations of the marketing concept reflected a general assumption within both the business and academic spheres regarding the implications of consumerism’s growing popularity. A substantial portion of scholars and managers surveyed in 1971, for example, believed that the rise in consumerism was a direct reflection of the inadequacy of the marketing concept (Barksdale and Darden, 1971). As the presumed response to the failure of the marketing concept, then, the consumerist movement became the foundation for “a revised marketing concept” which Kotler (1972) proposed as the successor to the “failed” marketing concept.

As in earlier stages of the marketing philosophy evolution, the “societal marketing concept” was ostensibly constructed upon the ruins of its immediate predecessor. Since the most recent consumerist movement in the U. S. served as the catalyst for today’s conceptualization and implementation of the societal marketing concept, it would seem important to understand the modern origins of this movement. consumerism affects society, the economy and the Environment.

Consumerism is economically manifested in the chronic purchasing of new goods and services, with little attention to their true need, durability, product origin or the environmental consequences of manufacture and disposal. Consumerism is driven by huge sums spent on advertising designed to create both a desire to follow trends, and the resultant personal self-reward system based on acquisition. Materialism is one of the end results of consumerism.

Consumerism interferes with the workings of society by replacing the normal common-sense desire for an adequate supply of life’s necessities, community life, a stable family and healthy relationships with an artificial ongoing and insatiable quest for things and the money to buy them with little regard for the true utility of what is bought. An intended consequence of this, promoted by those who profit from consumerism, is to accelerate the discarding of the old, either because of lack of durability or a change in fashion.

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