Consumer Power Sustainable Brands Fundamentals

Vote with Your Wallet

By Taylor Gray, Ph.D. on December, 8 2020

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Taylor Gray, Ph.D.

The world is a better place when companies are good corporate citizens. I remain focused on developing meaningful and actionable insights from empirical data in pursuit of a better world.

Vote with your wallet. It is such a simple phrase we have all heard many times before--so much so that for many it may even seem cliché. It is also such an easy sentiment to disregard--Really though, what can the purchase habits of but one consumer really change when put up against the mighty resources of a multinational corporation? 

 

Turns out, it can change everything.

 

But this isn’t news to us. In fact, we believe so deeply in the power of consumer agency that we have designed Motive explicitly for this purpose. You likely make use of consumer products every single day, but have you stopped to ask yourself if the brands you choose align with the issues you care about? This is an important question, because if they do not I can all but guarantee that there is a brand out there that does. We live in an age of choice, and through choice comes power...and responsibility.

Of all the stakeholders in a company, none are as important as are consumers.

 

The Age of Consumer Agency

Companies can be remarkably versatile, innovative, and adept at change--there is a significant diversity among companies, even among companies striving to operate in the same market space. Consider the contrasting structures and operations of online banking options, as an example of such diversity. From traditional bricks-and-mortar fee-based banks such as Bank of America or Wells Fargo to on-line only and fee-free options such as Aspiration, with a focus on social and environmental consciousness, or Chime, with focus on accelerating members’ access to their paychecks and direct deposits, it is clear that consumers have no shortage of choice when it comes to banks and banking amenities.

One truth remains constant across all companies, regardless of the diversity of structures and operations: all companies need customers. Of all the stakeholders in a company, none are as important as consumers.  Whether the strategy is to not lose any customers a company has already attracted, to actively seek to draw in new customers, or a mix of both, all companies need customers. 

"Every dollar we give to a company is a dollar they use to continue operating... and it is a dollar a different company cannot use."

With globalization, falling trade barriers, decreasing transaction costs, and increasing market entrants, there has never been so much competition for customers. As chaotic as 2020 has been, it has also brought about a record number of new company formations--in the USA and elsewhere in advanced and competitive economies such as the UK --meaning each and every company must work that much harder to retain each and every single customer they have or they could attract. 

With this competition for our consumer spending comes responsibility. Each and every purchase we make is never simply just a purchase, rather it is a vote of support for a particular product from a particular company with a specific structure and set of operations. Every dollar we give to a company is a dollar they use to continue operating... and it is a dollar a different company cannot use. 

 

Change, For the Better

It is easy to see how our consumer power shapes companies which invest heavily in brand development, but it is important to note that our power applies equally to companies that operate largely outside of regular consumer consciousness. Consumer demand has effectively pushed the world’s largest and most recognizable food and drinks companies, such as General Mills, Nestle, Unilever, and Kellogg’s to take concerted action on not only their direct climate impact but also that of their supply chains. Similarly, and much outside of the realm of recognized household brands, the pulp and paper industry developed alternatives to bleaching which are now used across the world. Research by the National Bureau of Economic Research investigating the filing of patents for such technologies documents how the shifting consumer demand for final paper products--such as toilet papers, facial tissues, and so on motivated the innovations throughout the supply chain much in advance of any corresponding government regulations. All companies, and not only those which compete so vigorously for the spotlight of public awareness and recognition, need consumers.

When you think of the world as you would like it to be--your own vision of progress--how do you see companies behaving? When you buy products today, do your choices contribute to your vision of a better world tomorrow? The world is always changing--in fact human society is a project of change--and we can each contribute to the outcomes of this change--whether it be chaos or progress--through the choices we make.

"Consumer choice is powerful, and informed consumer choice is exponentially more powerful."

 

Credible Information...The Motive Promise

Of course it is not always so easy to make good choices. Many times we simply do not have the information we need to make the decisions we want to make. Some companies are quite transparent about their structures and operations and hope to translate consumer agency into an expanding market share for themselves. Others--and unfortunately far too many--are intentionally less transparent as they are aware of the power of consumer agency and fearful of falling on the wrong side of this force. Consumer choice is powerful, and informed consumer choice is exponentially more powerful...and many companies are aware of this for better or for worse.

We built Motive because we believe in the power of consumer agency. The world is a better place when companies are good corporate citizens and consumer demand is the most important force in driving companies to become better corporate citizens (a worldview we know as Democratic Capitalism).

Our research team covers hundreds of public and private sources every day to collect data—actual empirical data and not simply promises, PR statements, or marketing slogans—about everyday products and the companies behind these products. Our science-based approach, shaped by what matters to you, makes it easy to understand the impacts of the brands you choose and to discover new brands committed to being better. 

You have a vision for how the world could be better. You have a choice in the brands you support. Consumer choice is infinitely powerful, and credible information is required to mobilize this power. Together, we can make the world better.

Vote with your wallet...it can change everything.

 


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