The Story of Stuff – What Kind of A Consumer Have You Become?

Today, I decided it was time I finally took out 30 mins of my day to watch both “The Story of Stuff” (2008) and “The Story of Broke” (2011). I have embedded both links at the end of this post.

When I attended the first IMPACT! Conference back in 2009, I had heard some talk about this story… Some story about “stuff,” I remembered, but never really gave it too much attention to proactively look into. And boy have I missed out! Well, it’s not like I didn’t know that people have been wasteful, governments have be using our funds in ways that are not always in the best interest of greater society, that marketers play a large part in fuelling consumerism, and… (the list goes on), but these clips are a pretty good well-rounded summary of so many issues in society that we tend to ignore. Face it – we know it exists, but we’re so focused on ourselves and our own benefit (and temporary, immediate gratification) that most people tend to adopt the “ignorance is bliss” model of life.

Let me tell you this – there’s a reason people are “wearing shorts on Nov 15, 2011 in the heart of downtown Toronto.” (I read this on my Facebook newsfeeds today – from a fellow 2009 IMPACT! alumni, actually.) You can’t tell me you don’t remember the days when you would make snow forts during recess in the snow and not have it melt the next day! Call me old, but I used to walk to school when it was -27’C. I even took skiing lessons when it was -30’C every winter! Now… I don’t even know if there’s enough snow for ski hills. And you see those beautiful Rocky Mountains in Alberta? The snow line is receding!! (Sorry to get all environmentalist-like on you, but for a commerce student who once seldom focused her attention on the environment – and knows many people on this planet still do not – I wanted to stress the urgency of this situation. Climate change. Global warming. Heard of it? These aren’t just buzz words Al Gore throws around and creates an entire documentary about.) Dear member of society, living man on this Earth, there is so much more going on in the world around us than most of you actually care about.

As a marketer, I have learned that profits mean the world to your clients/companies you work for. “How do I make my product better than my competitors?  Which needs are we going to meet of our target market? What needs to be done to increase our profits and decrease our costs?”  After watching these videos, it amazes me that there are strategic plans to keep the spending the going. (Watch the clips) Ex. Frequent changes in fashion, the way technology is designed, etc. (duh – even a company needs to sustain its profits/business, right?) So while I’m attempting to criticize (I use this lightly) the stereotypical consumer… I ask: Are you listening to your early adopters, looking up to trendsetters, and reading up on the latest tips to stay on top of your game? That purse you bought last week is going to go out of style soon and next month a new laptop that’s faster/sleeker/lighter will be out. (There’s talk that CES 2012 will introduce 50 new ultrabooks – we’re not even talking desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablets!) Everyone now owns something that’s Lulu Lemon and you’re going to be uncool if your TV still takes up almost as much space as your fridge does! At what point do you put your foot down and learn to be your own person? (I’ve exaggerated this paragraph a bit for dramatic purposes. Sorry to get a tad Naomi Klein… I find it ironic that I’m writing about this – heck, I’m a marketer!)

Let me tell you this: The way we meet our needs is changing. Consumers, nowadays, are becoming more and more educated. They actually care about their purchases and are well-informed about the products they are spending their hard-earned money on. (Yes, hard-earned. Especially during a time when the unemployment rate is high!) This is not yet the majority, but this population is growing. Corporations have already began to shift their images through Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable business practices, etc. New technologies are emerging and effecting extraction, manufacturing, and disposal; meanwhile, product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter. All this talk of “innovation and creativity” (see also: #DOT11 and #TEDx conferences) is essential to introducing new products into society, and is subsequently bringing more efficient and smart technologies into our daily lives. In my opinion, if you create a unique product that both improves the way of life and can be embedded into one’s day-to-day lifestyle, you’re halfway there. Again, the way we meet our needs is changing.

Furthermore, I am a strong proponent of competition. Nothing beats the motivation to do better than someone else. (You mean like better meeting the needs of my target market and having the best marketing mix? Yes!) Society reaps its benefits, producers are forced to innovate at a whole new level (pushing research more than ever), and consumers are almost forced to educate themselves – good or bad?  Remember, we only have a limited amount of resources to fulfil our needs (let alone wants), and the global population isn’t shrinking. It’s 7 billion and counting! Environmental sustainability is no longer just something you should be concerned about. It is reality. And it’s been around for a VERY LONG TIME.

Enjoy the clips below and share them with your friends. (Disclaimer: I am no expert in the subject matter, but I’m willing to share and learn – and to be corrected if I am wrong.) Educate yourselves.

The Story of Broke (below) came out a week ago. If you’re wondering why there are so many Occupy protests going on and all the talk of the “99%,” this might explain it to you.


7 thoughts on “The Story of Stuff – What Kind of A Consumer Have You Become?

  1. Not a rant, just a wonderful pouring of thoughts turned into meaningfull prose. I shall continue to educate and apply the principles of smart consumerism and sustainable product purchase and use for life!

    ps. Follow Tammy’s blog people! 😀

  2. Really loved reading this, Tammy. Not hypocritical at all. I think it is important for people of all studies to be involved in environmental issues as it is something that affects us all!

    The Stories are great vids and I love watching them. Have you ever seen a person be able to get the points across so concisely without outright offending a lot of people? She’s got skiiiiillllz!

    Lovin’ your blog chica!


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