Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Alex Bogusky

How powerful are consumers? Demonstration in a few examples

I have watched recently documentaries on the power of consumers in action and a book of interviews with famous brand designers.

There are two professors at Berkeley, and they form a team to coming to the rescue of engaged consumers who want safe and healthy products…

One of the professor is in charge of examining and investigating the toxic and poisonous ingredients, and the other professor handle the data-base and the online internet program that evaluate and rank products on a scale of 1 to 10 according to their health content and environmental quality…

For example, a serious consumer goes to a supermarket and take a picture of the ingredients and then check the value-rank of the product as designed by the Berkeley teamAny product lower than 7 for example is discarded for a better healthy quality product…

Maven, those people who are addicted to gathering knowledge and information and disseminating what they know, like this consumers taking pictures of products, were rare a couple of decades ago.  Currently, Mavens are increasing exponentially due to the affordable ease to use tools to connect fast and efficiently to internet data-bases and social platforms.

Modern mavens are putting the heat on corporations to change their habit and culture. Corporations are being flooded with angry feedback on their less than satisfactory quality products.

Amazingly, corporations are buying this validation system from the Berkeley team and other ready data-bases doing the same work of evaluating products, and doing their best to interchanging harmful ingredients with safer substitutes.

This system is spreading in the US and in Europe.

A few years ago, designer and advertiser guru Alex Bogusky developed the Eco-Index to measure everything about a product by computing a sustainability score.  This Eco-Index is an open-source index.

Alex Bogusky recalls that, as a Miami kid, he lived on Burger King Whoppers “Burger King, yeah! McDonald’s, screw them!”  And Burger King’s products were no longer different from McDonald’s: “Corn and soy get cut up and sliced and diced up, and turned into tasteless beef system…”

Alex Bogusky created FearLess Cottage to in order to change the equation to: “In exchange for my dollar, I demand from the corporation a transparent look at how “you behave and how you create this product…” Building consumer awareness and giving him the easy tools to investigating the health, safety, and ecological nature of a product will vastly increase the expectations from a relationship with a corporation…

The other example is the proliferation of “Connectors“, those rare species who have the capability to connect to vast network of people and clients.

Four years ago, a 30 year-old guy from San Francisco got an idea and decided to apply it. He visited his local small supermarket and struck a deal with the owner: “Listen, your lighting and freezing systems are archaic and need to be replaced by energy-saving systems.  I can flood your shop with plenty of customers, and in return you invest a quarter of your revenue generated during that day in renovating your energy system…”

At the marked day, people responded to the call.  Consumers even drove an hour just to join the line outside the street in order to transform an energy waster of a supermarket into an ecological and sustainable outlet.

In Texas, an engaged consumer bring with her a team of specialized contractors in lighting and cold spaces.  Once the client agree on a deal to renovate, the contractors get into action: a win-win situation for everyone concerned.

This idea is spreading in Europe as a wild-fire.

What of consumerism, power of consumers…? Any benefits when you let consumers lead?

Consumerism” was a term coined in the 60’s to mean a movement for protecting consumers and pressuring companies to caring for the safety and health of consumers in their products.

Currently, “Consumerism” connote over-consumption, the frenzy with which people keep buying things that they really don’t need or will rarely use. Actually, fans of a brand get very upset when it becomes mainstream…

Apparently, there is a Consumer’s Bill of Rights that was authored by John Kennedy in 1964, and this is an indication that relationship between company and consumers could evolve.

Companies have many more rights that individual citizens lack:  companies have limited liability, they have the right to give in unlimited ways to political campaigns, they can make an employee take a urine test…

Morning exercises at Ojom community primary school, Katine

Photograph: Dan Chung
If a company wants to bring about positive change, should it involve consumers from the outset?
Are consumers rarely engaged in developing a company’s social mission?
Is there any opportunity for higher benefits if business “gets it right” connecting with consumers in the beginning phases?

 Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton wrote on how companies can benefit if they let consumers lead:

“Few organisations are better at engaging their customers than businesses. Whether it is developing sophisticated insight into audience characteristics or top-quality customer service… the commercial sector still leads the field. Without it, individual businesses could not compete.

So it’s surprising that we don’t always see this level of engagement when businesses set their social missions.

While some do engage their customers, particularly those who must directly and regularly interact with consumers, the relationship is usually one in which business takes the leadership role.

For example, supermarkets stocking green products or utility companies encouraging households to save energy are positive signs. But they are relationships in which business is in the driving seat, with consumers being led – or “nudged” – into positive social change.

Letting consumers lead is something that the public sector is doing with increasing frequency and success.

Local (British) authorities and NHS organisations throughout the country have produced effective, innovative solutions, to issues as thorny as anti-social behavior, harmful drinking and energy efficiency, by engaging the public and letting them shape the agenda.

When we’ve worked with public sector organisations to help tackle difficult social challenges, each case has involved recognition that the people on the receiving end of an initiative cannot always be led into a solution.

If you really want to bring about positive change, you must involve your audience from the outset. By doing this, not only will you deliver social benefits, but create stronger customer relationships and more cost-effective services.

Our work with Barking and Dagenham council is one example.  Collaboration between residents and council staff led to improved waste disposal in the area. Rather than ask us to address a specific issue, our brief was to see how engagement with residents could uncover and solve local problems.

To do this, we developed a method called “conversations for improvement” (CFI), which involves engaging residents, listening to what they have to say and then bringing them together with council staff to co-create ideas for improvements. This approach led the council to find that some residents were confused about how to get rid of bulky waste.

Giving their customers a voice, and the chance to contribute and develop suggestions for how things could be improved, led to innovative ideas, a more effective service and cleaner streets. And beyond the immediate gains to the social environment, it also created a positive relationship between the council and local people. The council is now rolling out the CFI model in a number of localities.

The CFI model works because it enshrines consumer participation. It recognises that since people are experts in their lives and many of the problems that affect them, they should be allowed to contribute to the responses – especially when these involve expectations that they behave in a certain way.

So why don’t businesses tend to involve their customers in defining and devising social missions?

Is it because consumers don’t care or would prefer to be left alone?

Not according to Asda’s Julian Walker-Palin. And even if we accept that some consumers’ intentions to do more to improve society don’t translate into action, there remains a significant proportion of people who will act if they are engaged in the right way.

For example, the Co-operative Bank routinely empowers its customers to lead its social agenda by letting them vote on which courses of action it pursues.

There are other examples where degrees of consumer empowerment have led to a range of benefits for both business and the public.

The first of the seven “pillars” of Marks & Spencer’s acclaimed Plan A was “involving our customers”.

At a local level, Waitrose’s Community Matters scheme, which allows customers to vote for the social initiatives pursued by individual stores, recently won the prime minister’s “big society” award.

Quentin Clark, Waitrose head of sustainability and ethical sourcing, told us that devolving decision-making has resulted in gains for customers, the business and the wider community. Clark said: “Not only does the scheme provide the obvious financial benefit to good causes and charities, but research shows that it also significantly raises our customers’ awareness of what goes on in their local area, helping them feel part of their community. Many of our customers choose to shop with us because they know that we are committed to doing the right thing, and research shows us that the scheme helps enhance our shoppers’ loyalty and trust in our brand.”

Given the opportunity and appetite for business to do well by doing good through consumer collaboration, why don’t we see more?” End of quote

Note:  Post inspired from “The benefits of letting consumers lead” by Toby Hopwood, Mary Rose Cook, and Zoë Stanton for the Guardian Professional Network, on Monday 20 February 2012; guardian.co.uk

Mary Rose Cook and Zoë Stanton are co-founders and managing directors of Uscreates, and Toby Hopwood is a communications associate at Uscreates


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October 2020
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