Commercial: Some thoughts on changing customers, and behaviours
Not mine, but Rob Walker's, who as you'll all no doubt know, is the prince of scribes when it comes to tracking these things. In his book I'm with the brand (The UK title for Buying In) there were two things which jumped out at me. First, with branding implications:, from page 212:
The contemporary consumer... demands more - more originality, more sincerity, more not-in-the-mainstreamness, a greater goal than just making money... [X Brand] does have a logo, but it appears [...] only where the consumer sees it. And the point is: Only the consumer needs to.
Of course, this ties back into much earlier ideas of 'how cool is coldness' and the mass-produced secret, but it's still a leap that's going to be difficult for traditional, mass market brands to make - how do you have presence and awareness on a large scale, while whispering and not shouting?
Second, from page 228, in a section on how buying ethically in the marketplace is actually quite difficult, he quotes from a study that suggests that:
'The opportunity to appear altruistic by committing a charitable act in a prior task serves as a license to make [the subjects] relatively more likely to choose a luxury item.'
So, that's to say, 'doing good in one area of life provided a rationale to worry less about such things in another.'
Which, when you scale it up, has worrying implcations for trying to green people's behaviour. Set them a small task, and chances are you won't - overall - make their overall consumption any more environmentally friendly. Which in turn, perhaps, suggests that we might need to be setting bigger and more ambitious goals from the off.