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Meet the Paradoxical Consumer

Meet the Paradoxical Consumer

OMD Sense research 

We’ve been hearing a lot about climate change this year. It seems like week after week the media coverage gets gloomier and the debate gets more intense.

Being ethical about the environment used to be for hippies, eco-warriors and the like…not any more… consumers are feeling the pressure to do their bit to save the world.

Those same consumers are also living in a period of mass affluence.  Just ten years ago, a phrase like “affordable luxury” would have made no real sense. Now luxury brands are everywhere and affluent people have all kinds of choice – being ethical is one of them.

We hear a lot about this Ethical Consumer too. Global warming has led to brands doing silly things like “greenwashing,” trying to catch the Ethical Consumer.

He or she is definitely the trend setter, but the impact on the wider world of consumers doesn’t get talked about so much.

In that wider word, it’s all about the Paradoxical Consumer.

Several statements on TGI deal with ethical and environmental buying:

- It's Worth Paying More For Organic Food

- Only Buy Products From Company With Good Ethics

- Prepared To Pay More/Env.Friendly Products

- I Buy Fair Trade Products When Available

- I Would Never Buy Food That Has Been Genetically Modified

The Ethical Consumer who agrees with all of them counts for five per cent of people.

The Paradoxical Consumer who agrees with one or more statements counts for 65 per cent!

The Paradoxical Consumer is best described as inconsistent, and most of us could be summed up in this way. 

We care, but we’re not “joined up” about it.  We may buy Ecover detergent but we’ll leave our phone charger plugged in all the time.

You may  buy organic food because it’s better for you, but to be an Ethical Consumer not only do you need to have spend money on expensive organic food, you also have to be able to self-deny.

You won’t fly freely. You won’t eat apples when they’re out of season, which is 10 months of the year. That capacity for self-denial really separates the two consumer types. Lots of people like apples but how many could live without them for 80 per cent of the year.

Affordable air travel has revolutionised our lives – how many consumers are prepared to give up their cheap flights, the growth in the number of passengers flying each year suggests not many.

What the Paradoxical Consumer wants to do is cancel out the “bad” choices, like flying, with “good” choices, like biodegradable bin-bags.

Organic milk is a typical “green” product. It tastes the same as ordinary milk. It just costs a bit more. The market share of organic milk doubled between 2004 and 2006, to six per cent.

In 2007 growth has stopped, as price increases have taken their toll. The Ethical Consumer will continue to buy it. The Paradoxical Consumer is definitely more price sensitive.

Brands that go green can increase market share if:

• Price premium low
• Green credentials genuine
• Civic-spirit evident
• “Green” quality well integrated with brand values

Many brands that don’t go green or act civic-minded will be vulnerable. On the other hand, brands seen pretending to be green or civic-minded will lose face.

The Paradoxical Consumer wants brands to provide an easy option to be green and cancel out other ‘bad’ choices, all without compromising consumer satisfaction. He/she is the one to watch.

OMD Sense, draws on the talents which have seen OMD Insight develop such an enviable reputation in the industry.  OMD Sense does not try to predict what’s going to be cool in six months time or to alarm anyone with declarations that they’ll have to act on immediately.

What OMD Sense does is put together social trends in a “joined-up” style so the clients can see their impact on brands, communications and consumers, and interact with those trends accordingly.
The Paradoxical Consumer wants brands to provide an easy option to be green and cancel out other ‘bad’ choices, all without compromising consumer satisfaction. He/she is the one to watch.

OMD Sense, draws on the talents which have seen OMD Insight develop such an enviable reputation in the industry.  OMD Sense does not try to predict what’s going to be cool in six months time or to alarm anyone with declarations that they’ll have to act on immediately.

What OMD Sense does is put together social trends in a “joined-up” style so the clients can see their impact on brands, communications and consumers, and interact with those trends accordingly.

Comments/Feedback? Please contact: Michael.Tully@omduk.com

AJR
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