Consumerism Meaning, Roots and Need

Table of Contents:-

  • Meaning of Consumerism
  • Principles of Consumerism
  • Need for Consumerism 
  • Role of Consumerism
  • Factors Contributing to Consumerism
  • Agencies that Influence Consumerism

Meaning of Consumerism

Consumerism can be seen as an organised movement of the government and citizens to reinforce the power and rights of customers concerning sellers. It is a concept and ideology used quite a lot in business literature. Due to unfair trade practices, a consumer faces several harmful environmental and physical exploitations for which he/she needs protection.

For example, a customer needs protection against unsafe products like adulterated food products, drugs, defective electrical appliances, etc. Such protection safeguards customers against the deceit and malpractices of sellers. Thus, appropriate rights and duties should be given to customers to find remedies against defaulting sellers.

According to Cravens and Hills, “Consumerism is a social force within the environment designed to aid and protect the consumers by exerting legal, moral and economic pressures on business”.

According to Philip Kotler, “Consumerism is a social movement seeking to augment the rights and powers of the buyers in relation to sellers”.

Consumerism is a policy framework or movement with its main focus on controlling the products/services, standards of manufacturers, methods of trading, sellers and advertisers in the interest of customers. Such policies and regulations can be in the form of statutory, institutional or embodied voluntary codes either acquired by a certain industry or different consumer organisations.

Principles of Consumerism

Several principles of consumerism have originated but the persisting problems that triggered the programme are given below:

1) Disillusionment with the Systems

Recent research studies have revealed that many customers are disgusted with politics, doubt businesses and feel negative about their societal position. Consumers are disappointed with the system. They are disappointed with their position of bargaining. Consumers think that they are getting bad deals in the market than those they used to get earlier. All the institutions are facing increased public inspection, doubt and loss of honour.

2) Performance Gap

A lot of consumers are not satisfied with the products or services. Advertising creates hype which increases the expectations of consumers about the performance and reliability of a product. Increased complications in products bring new risks of malfunctioning which in turn widens the performance gap in the minds of the consumer.

3) Consumer Information Gap

Usually, buyers encounter thousands of complex products that need proper evaluation regarding several dimensions related to quality, reliability, performance and convenience. Due to the lack of time, interest and capability to gather information, buyers are often unable to make ideal decisions in the marketplace.

4) Antagonism towards Advertising

Advertising is normally not considered useful and honest by a large segment of society. Moreover, it is condemned for its pushiness and invokes feelings of irritation, labelled roles, portrayals and campaigning of impractical expectations. In a recent survey, it was found that two-thirds of the people surveyed, rated telemarketing as a major annoyance, whether it is a human or interactive voice response service at the other end. 

5) Unresponsive and Impersonal Marketing Institutions

Sometimes, consumers develop a feeling that no company is paying attention to them and are not concerned about them. Factors that incite the feeling of impersonalness include reduced sales personnel knowledge, bureaucratic structure, self-service, computer-mediated communication, etc.

6) Intrusions of Privacy

Increased usage of computers by the government, institutions and organisations has made it possible to develop many consumer information databases which in turn increase concern over the access and usage of such data. Companies try to protect consumer privacy by protecting illegal access to such information but still, the problems of intrusion continue.

7) Decreasing Living Standards

Consumerism tries to cater for the situations of disappointment and negativity in the economic system which developed due to the decrease in the discretionary income of the consumers.

8) Special Problems of the Disadvantaged

Consumerism finds its roots in addressing the problems of disadvantaged people. Poor, young and old people are more susceptible than other sections of society to problems which include economic pain and problems relating to necessities like food, clothing, hygiene and social evils. People take up non-traditional employment activities (lending labour, garbage collection, mining, etc.) to overcome these problems. Such problems restrict them from becoming ordinary customers. 

9) Different Viewpoints of the Market

Business people differ in their views about the nature of the marketplace depending upon how they see the marketplace. A product-oriented marketer considers every customer as similar, whereas a market-oriented marketer sees every customer as different.

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Need for Consumerism 

The need for consumerism is as follows:

1) Limited Literate and Aware Population

In India, a major portion of the total population is illiterate. uninformed and ignorant. Thus, organising consumers becomes a very difficult task. This problem becomes more severe as citizens come from different types of cultures, religions and linguistics. In such a scenario, consumerism becomes essential for spreading information about the rights and duties of the customers.

2) Economic Backwardness

When the customers are compared with the producers and sellers, their economic situation is quite poor. The seller can easily manipulate the price, size, quality and weight of products. Customers, on the other hand, depend solely on the sellers to obtain the required products/services. Hence, a consumer requires various types of protection against the malpractices performed by the sellers.

3) Huge Variety of Products and Services

Due to rapid advancements in science and technology, manufacturers and producers are now able to produce countless varieties of products and goods. There are numerous producers of similar types of products. Although, this creates massive alternatives and a variety of products for customers but also adds to the complexity and confusion while choosing the right product. Thus, expert guidance is required by customers.

4) Deceptive Advertising

One of the most effective methods of sales promotion is an advertisement. Considering the present marketing scenario, advertisements have become more deceptive. Such advertisements create an illusory picture in the minds of customers due to which they are unable to recognise the actual quality of the advertised products.

5) Required Support for Customers

Customers require support against sellers and producers as they will take customers for granted and continue their unfair trade practices unless the customers become strong enough to know and protect their rights.

6) Feedback for Business

Feedback will be provided to the business with the help of consumerism. It enables the sellers to identify and understand the needs, wants and grievances of the customers. Consumerism will also ensure the effective implementation of marketing and societal concepts. 

7) Responsive Environment

Government can become more sensitive towards the interests of customers with the help of consumerism. It will motivate the government to take necessary actions and change institutional setups to protect the rights of consumers.

Role of Consumerism

The field of providing protection and support to the customer can be promoted in many developing countries through consumerism by exerting moral, economic and legal pressure on producers and sellers. The role of consumerism is discussed below:

1) Enhancement in Supply

The shortage of supply results in hoarding and black marketing practices of traders. The producers can control such defects in distribution with the support of customers.

2) Eradicating Unfair Trade Practices

All unfair trade practices will come to an end and sellers will stop taking customers for granted if the rights of customers are protected and promoted.

3) Better Relationships

As feedback will be provided to the producers from consumers, the needs and wants of the customers can be easily understood by the producers which will establish friendly relationships between the consumers and producers.

4) Consumer Education

Information about different types of products and services will be provided to the customer through consumerism. This may include expectations of customers, standard trade practices and prices.

5) Product Rating

Various types of tests and reports are provided to the customers by various consumer agencies so that they can make effective decisions regarding the selection of products.

6) Liaison with Government and Producers

Many consumer organisations liaison with both government agencies and producers. As most of the customer needs are fulfilled by the government in India, these liaisons can help in fulfilling the needs of customers. Thus, the importance of the role of such agencies must be identified.

Factors Contributing to Consumerism

Factors that contribute to consumerism are discussed below:

1) Globalisation

It has been observed that economic activities are evolutionary by nature. To be efficient, economies expand or contract by eliminating the manufacturers that are not performing well. Through innovations in features and procedures of production, economic revolutionary activities periodically change the character of business transactions. Recently, the globalization of the economy has been affecting evenly on both fronts. As the economies are working in an environment of high competition, they are expanding and contracting to prepare themselves to face and survive in this competitive environment.

2) New Organisational Technologies

The present era is an era of knowledge. With the development and innovation in technology, knowledge is now available at the fingertips of the consumer. Consumerism has spread like fire in all the economies throughout the world through the advent and innovation of computers, mobile technology, the internet and social networks. Now, marketers and advertisers cannot take consumers lightly.

3) Unprecedented Market Competition

Domestic producers and manufacturers are facing severe competition due to the rise of globalization. Due to this, the marketing activities of agencies working around the world and their businesses are not only affected by regional policies but also by any activity happening in the remote area of a small village or city. For example, the failing of banking institutions in a country may significantly affect other economies across the world. Similarly, an earthquake in a country may result in a loss of production in some other country.

4) Misleading and Deceptive Advertising

To communicate all sorts of information about their corporate image, inform about their product or services and marketing strategies to the consumer, advertisers, marketers and manufacturers use advertising. Marketers and consumers get linked together through the advertisement as they create a bond of trust and faith.

5) Unfair Trade Practices

Unfair trade practices can be easily spotted in a competitive marketplace; they vary from industry to industry. Such unfair practices can be pursued by a single marketer or by the whole industry. Many times, it has been found that marketers form a union to carry out activities that are not in the interest of the public. In the pre-globalization period, Indian consumers faced the union of producers in almost every kind of industry. In the seller’s market. Indian consumers have faced such unionism in various industries like the cement industry, steel industry, automobile and spare part industries, etc.

Agencies that Influence Consumerism

Various agencies and institutions that play a major role in the development of consumerism in a society or a country across the world are discussed below:

1) Governments and Administrations

For the protection of consumer interests, the government and administrators act as overseers. To ensure consumer safety, they employ various reformatory, legal, and constitutional methods to confirm that all the activities pursued by marketing agencies for marketing are ensuring ‘consumer welfare’. These measures are undertaken to maintain the desired standards of decency, morality and fair business practices by the marketing organisations while pursuing various marketing activities for the consumers.

2) Marketers and Advertisers

Marketing agencies that operate on the notion that the consumer is their top priority always make efforts to work in a way that benefits the firm as well as the consumer. For this purpose, marketers need to understand the prominence of consumers. Marketers have made their way from the concept of sales to that of marketing and have ultimately reached a level where consumer service is their highest priority.

3) Public Policymakers

Keeping in mind the welfare and benefits of the society as a whole, public policymakers formulate these policies and further, these policies are implemented by the government and executive agencies. Marketing agencies that are operating in the marketplace are under continuous surveillance by these policy decision-makers. Any activity performed by these marketing agencies that is not in the interest of the general public is committed by these agencies by making required changes in the existing policies or bringing new policies in place. Some policies that are made by the policymakers to safeguard the interest of the general public are recommending maximum ceiling prices, information about ingredients in food products and medicines, mentioning of manufacturing and expiry dates of a product, proper usage instructions, etc,

4) NGOs, Social Reformers and Social Critics

For the protection of consumer interests, various non-governmental agencies, social welfare agencies and social workers make continuous efforts. To encourage the government to ratify laws that favour the consumers’ interest, these agencies create public awareness about consumer rights and privileges from a strong public belief which is the main task of such agencies.

5) Consumers

Consumers can act as the best guard to protect their rights and privileges; no one can perform better than the consumer on this front. When the consumers are aware of the laws and start exercising them, this is where the consumer movement begins. The outcomes of customer education can be determined by the demanding customers who employ their impact on the practices and policies of marketers and manufacturers. Marketers and manufacturers that simply want to make profits from the consumers must be discarded by them. Presenting themselves as a single united front, consumers must get united.


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