“The desire for Meaningful Consumption will increasingly inform and dictate consumers’ purchase decisions.”
An Interview on Meaningful Consumption and Time To Think
Q: How would you define Meaningful Consumption?
Ancketill: Advanced economies provide an excess of branded products. Consumers only need so much ‘stuff’, so once we have the basics we move up Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. That’s when Meaningful Consumption comes into play. I’d define this as the process of purchasing certain brands over others for non-functional reasons. For example, I support Camper not only because I like their shoes but because I like their ethical and ecologically aware ethos. By spending money with them I get more than a product – I feel I’m buying into an ethical lifestyle which tries to make the world a better place for others.
Q: Why is Meaningful Consumption so much in focus at the moment?
Ancketill: Because we need to believe that win-win scenarios are possible. Ideally we want great products and services at the right price, while still leaving the world economy and ecology in better shape as a result of our actions.
Q: In what ways do you think consumption is driven by consumer experience?
Ancketill: In a world of almost limitless choice we now buy experiences rather than products. The degree to which consumption is driven by consumer experience of a brand: the service, the environment, the physical and emotional connection generated there, cannot be underestimated.
Q: Why do you think we have moved from product-focused consumption towards cultural consumption – and what are the key social drivers behind this shift?
Ancketill: Western societies are moving up, from the basics of survival to the more spiritual, cultural, altruistic and aesthetic pursuits. Essentially, the richer we get, the higher our expectations of the brands we buy into. If your only aim as a brand owner is to make profit, you’re not going to impress this customer. That’s no longer a good enough reason to exist.
Q: Who would you single out as leaders (both people and companies) in Meaningful Consumption?
Ancketill: Brands like Innocent and Camper appear to genuinely care about their staff, how they do business, and the impact that has on the world. Toyota is ahead of the game with its hybrid Prius. Wholefood supermarkets in the US (spreading to Europe) appear to be exemplary in every respect; treatment of staff, sourcing of products, service delivery, experiential environment. The prices are above average but the fact that people are willing to pay for the feelgood factor proves my point.
Q: What will the future impact of Meaningful Consumption be for brands, services and products?
Ancketill: Leading brands, products and services of the future will reconfigure themselves to be net contributors to the general good.
Q: What lifestyle changes do you think will be the most important in years to come?
Ancketill: There will be less differentiation between the young and the middle aged in terms of cultural outlook, active life, expectations, style, etc. Vast amounts of GDP will be diverted to finding ways of ‘reversing’ old age, but there will be a growing social, political and economic divide between the economically active and the growing population of seniors. Obesity and health will define a new class system, with smart drugs and implants being used by the ‘haves’ to improve their mental and physical capabilities. Water scarcity and ecological issues will change the way we use natural resources.
Q: What is the biggest challenge companies face in the future?
Ancketill: Tuning in to the mood of the people. Finding ways of doing well by doing good.
Question On Time and Meaning…
Q: How has modern society changed your notions of time?
Ancketill: Hard to say as I’ve only ever lived in modern society, but in my view human evolution has yet to catch up with the rapid rate of technological and communications advances. As a result we know too much and try to achieve too much. The end result is high levels of anxiety and alienation, hence the Western quest for ‘balance’.
Q: What is your definition of ‘quality time’?
Ancketill: Not having to do anything you don’t want to do.
Q: Why do people today feel they have less time?
Ancketill: Many people actually have more time than their forebears when you consider the not uncommon 15-hour shift in Victorian factories or mines. But we are super-stimulated, with unlimited options for entertainment and distraction filling our ‘downtime’.
Q: How do you feel the 24/7 culture has impacted on brands, products and services?
Ancketill: Convenience has become the guide for much product innovation – so we have more time to be entertained.
Q: Convergence technology is supposed to save us time. Is this your perception?
Ancketill: Not really. Jobs tend to expand to fill the time available. If you can access emails on the Tube to work you will. It won’t mean you then go home earlier.
Q: Has technology improved our quality of life or made achieving work/leisure balance more stressful?
Ancketill: I’d sit on the fence here. Clearly technology has made our lives safer and easier. However, whether we humans are yet sufficiently evolved to cope with constant streams of information and always being ‘on call’ or ‘on line’, is open to question. Currently there is a serious problem with work/leisure balance.
Q: Can you give us a speed conclusion on Time and Meaningful Consumption?
Ancketill: Quality time to do as we please with whom we please will be desired above all else. Energy and focus are needed for a work/life balance, and many will turn to coaching, yoga, meditation and new age interests to rebalance their lives. The desire for Meaningful Consumption will increasingly inform and dictate consumers’ purchase decisions.
Interview: Questions by Kjaer Global for the Time to Think Conference (UK), September 2006
Keynotes on Kate Ancketill and GDR
* GDR (Global Design Resources) was founded in 1992
* The GDR report is a designer’s roadmap to leading edge design.
Profile: With nine years in the design industry and six in global retail trend analysis, Kate Ancketill is well placed to spot the next big thing. Working with clients such as Sony, Nike and P&G, she presents the findings of GDR’s quarterly research output over 100 times a year, at clients’ offices worldwide and at international conferences.
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