Monday, October 26, 2009

Consumer Consciousness: Two Forces Redefining the Value Equation.

The bubble of indifference has burst.

Until recently, it used to be very different. Consumers cared about functional performance and price...and cared about very little else. Like how products were really made. The ingredients they really contained. What they really did to the body. So the reasoning went, if it was available, it had to be safe. Governments regulate, after all.

Nothing like crisis to wake people up. And shaken up they have been. Toxicity in toy paint, lethal ingredients in pet food, health threats in the food chain (fruits and vegetables), ever rising cases of cancer, and obesity on a mass scale among not just adults but children. This is the PERSONAL dimension that evolved the value equation of what people buy. No longer is buying convenience foods so easily divorced from the health consequences of doing to. Marketers are responding with convenient foods that force less of that trade-off. It is a good development.

The consumer value equation is also being redefined by another key dimension: PLANET. The environmental crisis has precipitated a shift: people en masse are making a direct personal link between what they consumed and the impact they were having on the planet.

The result: a time of greater scrutiny but if anything higher standards. People care more about what's in products and how they're made. They have to know, it's almost not a choice. The cost of indifference - personally and for the planet - is too high. Companies are responding by making better products.

A new kind of involvement and a new strategy has emerged among consumers: asking question and demanding answers. The smart companies are recognizing this is a new age of transparency. Avoidance is an option but not a good one. Being part of the conversation is a way companies can shape the dialogue about them, thought the days of control are over. Trust has been broken and companies now have to earn it back.

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