Definition and significance
Consumerism refers to the process of creating and retaining the urge to buy goods and services in larger volumes in a socially and economically accepted order. It can be a crucial and vital process in the growth of the economy of a country particularly in developing countries .In his article Consumerism Dr Ashfaque H Khan attributes Pakistan’s sturdy economic growth that span for a period of five years (between 2003 and 2007) to the process of consumerism.
The country’s growth was reportedly at 7% per annum on average for the whole period. This effect is due to the fact that consumerism takes up a share of between seventy and seventy five percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During this particular period it was close to 72 percent. Sixty percent of India’s GDP also depends on consumption and is projected to increase by the year 2025 (Khan 1).
How it works
The process by which consumerism increases and retains the growth momentum is a consequence of the linkage between the growth of the economy, increase in the per capita income, raising consuption, increase in retail space and popularization of products. Khan explains that increased economic growth causes an alteration in the consumption pattern through the upsurge in per capita income. Weakening of laws prohibiting entry international products results in flooding of the domestic market with international products.
The consumers become more informed and begin experimenting with the different showcased products in the increased retail store spaces. However, in “Cloning the Consumer Culture: How International Marketing Sells the Western Lifestyle”, Noreene Janus argues that the economic status of the consumers will greatly influence their purchasing power or interest.
Khan proceeds to say that the growing consumer appetite encourages greater investments in manufacturing equipment and growth of the service industry such as real estate. The increased investments create more job opportunities which in turn increase the amount of disposable income available for the prospective customers.
This act of consumption thus propels the private sector to expand in order to satisfy the now enormous demand. Despite criticism the method has been italicized by countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam making them a darling of the international markets (Khan 2).
Relation between consumerism and religion
In order to understand how to increase consumption of a product we have to know how these brands act as religion. An anonymous article in the Financial Times refers to modern day products as the new religion. Religion refers to what one believes in that influences how they relate with others.
It is meant to satisfy a psychological want of openly showing one’s self-worth just as brand dependence. Regions where people are more religious and ardent church goers’ products such as Apple which are brand name stores are bound to perform dismally. This is attributed to the fact that religious people tend to shy away from nation-brands of self-expressive goods but purchase tendencies remain the same for functional products.
Atheists due to lack of a religion tend to take brand names as their religion whereas the religious people already have something to believe in thus they do not value these products. A perfect instance s is that of the Apple Inc. customers who viewed Steve Jobs as their ‘messiah’ while extending hostility to their ‘evil advisory’, Microsoft’s Bill Gates or HP’s Hewlett Packard.
Therefore by understanding its consumers a country can influence the effect of consumerism to its economy’s advantage by selectively liberalizing the different market types or international product brand-names. The advertisements will be viewed as the missionaries of the brand-religion.
How to promote consumerism
According Andrew Lam assertions in his article, “Closing of Age in a Changing Nation”, the West has a great influence on Vietnam. People view such places as America as the places with the magical spar in life. Hollywood films are being watched and several people such as Nguyen want to take their loved ones to the United States (103). This is due to what they have seen in adverts on the newspapers and television sets. We can take advantage of these to promote consumerism.
Janus says that there exists a transnational culture in the use of products such as automobiles, watching of Hollywood movies, shopping malls that generate the homely feeling irrespective of whichever part of the world one is in. The current global culture is a consequence of slight but spontaneous developments that relied entirely on technological advances, augmented international trade and air travels.
Transactional culture is based on the consumption of a product and relies on advertising to pass the message of ingestion in a simple but understandable way. According to Janus, an advertiser is supposed to rely on the positives such as excitement, youth, status or fashion while avoiding the resultant social incongruities, class variances or workplace disagreements.
Consumer freedom of choice should be offered as an alternative to political democracy. The advertiser should capitalize on the fact that the only means of self-expression for social change available to a great majority of the people is the freedom to choose between varieties of products. Transnational culture will only hold once the local cultural differences are done away with.
Engaging in a global marketing strategy where a similar advertising message is used in all the countries is an effective method. Targeting the poor families in the 3rd world countries in the advertising campaigns is also bound to bear fruit as these people can contribute money amongst themselves to raise the required amounts.
Use of global media
A crucial factor in the creation of the transnational culture is the swiftness and the scope of transmission of the intended advert through media such as television, newspapers and magazines. A company should therefore ensure these media convey the adverts appropriately particularly in television which is efficient with illiterate people.
This is according to Greys Advertising International in Janus’ article advertising using such media may alter the thinking of the customers. For example, when light-skin products are advertised through television they persuade African women to hate their completion and try to be white. These way breaching products are sold to these women.
Governments and consumerism
The Government of the day plays a vital role in promotion or limitation of consumerism in their country. According to Khan and Lam Vietnam government has promoted the process by allowing sales of international products to its citizens indiscriminately. For India the last decade has seen its GDP grow at an average of 7 percent and the per capita income rise by two points lower. This can be attributed to the increased middle class who have in turn raised the demand higher.
Through this, the government has recognized the importance of developing consumerism and brand-awareness as ingredient maintaining high economic growth. To nurture this more, the government came up a retail FDI policy five years ago that has greatly benefited the foreign retailers such as Rino Greggio (Argentina). This policy does not only boost the consumption rate it also sets India apart from other countries of the world.
The steady economic growth of China over the last thirty years has witnessed expansion of the middle class purchasing power making it the leading consumer market in the world. According to Khan China also has the second largest number of luxury goods consumers in the world (2). In order to uphold this, the government has a 5-year plan being one of its priorities. Moreover, other nations are beginning to value the role of consumerism in their economic growth and are putting measures in place in readiness.
Consumerism can be used as a way of encouraging and supporting economic growth for any nation as discussed above. It can also be used as a measure of the standards of livings of the people while mirroring the resilient middle class in the economy. The aim of any government is to upgrade the standards of living of its people. When used appropriately consumerism can serve as diligent tool for that goal. Were it not for consumerism, India would not be a member of the elite G-20 group (Khan 2).
Professionals who undermine the usefulness of this process end upbringing down the economies of their countries. A good example is Pakistan whose economic growth was diminished due to false advice by ‘professionals’ who undermined its usefulness.
Countries such as Vietnam should do more to promote consumerism in order to improve the living standards of their people rather than using its resources to restrict the freedom of speech of its people.
Khan, Ashfaque, H. “consumerism.” The News. 04 October. 2011. 17 October. 2011.
Lam, Andrew. Perfume Dreams. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2005. Print.