Role of Consumerism

28th July 2022 0 By indiafreenotes

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the Industrial Revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to overproduction the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to manipulate consumer spending. In 1899, a book on consumerism published by Thorstein Veblen, called The Theory of the Leisure Class, examined the widespread values and economic institutions emerging along with the widespread “leisure time” at the beginning of the 20th century. In it, Veblen “views the activities and spending habits of this leisure class in terms of conspicuous and vicarious consumption and waste. Both relate to the display of status and not to functionality or usefulness.”

In economics, consumerism may refer to economic policies that emphasise consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice by manufacturers of what is produced and how, and therefore orient the economic organization of a society (compare producerism, especially in the British sense of the term).

Consumerism has been widely criticized by both individuals who choose other ways of participating in the economy (i.e. choosing simple living or slow living) and experts evaluating the effects of modern capitalism on the world. Experts often assert that consumerism has physical limits such as growth imperative and overconsumption, which have larger impacts on the environment, including direct effects like overexploitation of natural resources or large amounts of waste from disposable goods, and larger effects like climate change. Similarly, some research and criticism focuses on the sociological effects of consumerism, such as reinforcement of class barriers and creation of inequalities.

Consumerism covers the following areas of consumer dissatisfaction and remedial efforts:

(1) Removal or reduction of discontent and dissatisfaction generated in the exchange relationships between buyers and sellers in the market. The marketing activities of the selling firms must ensure consumer satisfaction which is the core of marketing concept. Marketing practices and policies are the main targets of consumerism.

(2) Consumerism is interested in protecting consumers from any organisation with which there is an exchange relationship. Hence, consumer dissonance (post-purchase anxiety and doubt) and remedial effort can develop from consumers’ relations not only with profit-seeking organisations but also with non-profit organisations, e.g., hospitals, schools, Government agencies, etc.

(3) Modern consumerism also takes keen interest in environmental matters affecting the quality of life.

Consumerism Opportunities:

Consumerism is now an established, a vocal, and a well-organised force in the marketplace so that consumer complaints and grievances will be heard and redressed.

If business ignores them or if business cannot or will not be accountable to the consumer, it is obvious that the only alternative is more and more consumer legislation and Government intervention to ensure justice and fair play to consumers. It means that indifference of business towards ever-growing consumer movement will amount to an open invitation or a blank cheque in favour of Government interference in the free market mechanism.

Areas of Basic Rights of Consumers:

Consumers have “rights” which are important for all marketers to appreciate. Recently the UK government has encouraged the development of a citizen’s charter which includes a “Patient’s charter” for the National Health Service, a passenger’s charter for rail travellers, and various other customer-focused initiatives.

The real awakening of consumerism was in the USA. Before Nader’s book, President Kennedy highlighted the obligation on an organisation owes to its customers in his “Consumer Bill of Rights”.

This encompassed four main areas that should be basic rights for all consumers:

(1) The right to safety

(2) The right to be informed

(3) The right to choose

(4) The right to be heard.

The idea of rights can be traced back to the “inalienable rights” included in the US Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. The marketing profession of today must be aware of these rights and combine them where possible in any marketing plans for products and services. They form a good framework for considerations.

(1) The Right to Safety:

When a purchase is made, the consumer has the right to expect that it is safe to use. The product should be able to perform as promised and should not have false or misleading guarantees. This “right” is in fact a minefield for the marketing profession. Products which were at one time regarded as safe for use or consumption have subsequently been found by modern research not to be so.

(2) The Right to be informed:

The right to be informed has far-reaching consequences it encompasses false or misleading advertising, insufficient information about ingredients in products, insufficient information on product use and operating instructions, and information which is deceptive about pricing or credit terms. But this adopts a negative approach. Avoiding trouble is not sufficient.

Any market should take advantage of every opportunity to communicate with consumers and to inform them about the benefits and features of the product offered. It should be no protection to claim that consumers fail to read instructions. Marketers must ensure fully effective communications between consumer and supplier.

(3) The Right to Choose:

The consumer has the right to choose and, of course, marketing does try to influence that choice. But, in most western markets competition is encouraged and products should not confuse consumers.

As an example, it has been suggested that to make this right easier to attain, packaging should be changed so that similar products from different firms are packaged in exactly the same quantities, or at least use both metric and imperial weights/ measures and so make value comparisons easier for the customer.

(4) The Right to be Heard:

The right of free speech is present in all western countries. However, do organisations listen to consumers? In a well-focused marketing organisation such feedback should be encouraged, and it should be treated as a key input for the future. This right allows consumers to express their views after a purchase, especially if it is not satisfactory. When anything goes wrong with a purchase the customer should expect that any complaint should be fairly and speedily dealt with.