Consumer Activists What Can We Learn Literature Review

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Consumer activists are every much a part of modern day life. On the one hand, they attack corporations for deceiving and perverting a simple-minded public; on the other hand, they denounce consumers for their attachment to a frivolous and insipid materialism. This essay claims that in order for corporations to protect themselves from consumer activists and in order for them to structure their marketing agendas along lines that will not provoke these activists, the "know they enemy" step should be taken, where consumer activism, as an organism, should be studied along sociological procedures. Once done, marketing agencies are better equipped to craft their projects along lines that would less readily provoke activists, and they may, in fact, be enabled to win their approval.

The following essay assesses the characteristics of consumer activists, outlines their psychological and ideological agenda, claims that despite their posturing and hyperbolic meanderings, consumer activists do accomplish much good in restraining consumers from being deceived by fraudulent marketing claims, and recommends that for marketing agencies to avoid collision with consumer activists they would be well -- advised to ensure that: (i) their products are carefully, thoroughly, and reliably tested before being marketed, (ii) that advertisements should proceed along ethical channels, and (iii) that consumer-generated media can be used to protect the company's reputation by spreading a positive "buzz-word" image.

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The objective of consumer activists is to make the public a more informed participant of the consumer environment (Campbell, 1999). In this way, its goals include ensuring that the quality of goods are safer, qualitatively superior, environmentally adept, and that they are more readily available. Consumer activists serve as a watchdog against profiteers and against marketing deception of any kind.

To that extent, anti-consumerists draw on Kennedy's words as their motto. When pushing the Bill for Consumer Rights in Congress in 1962, John F. Kennedy noted that:

Literature Review on Consumer Activists What Can We Learn From Them Assignment

"If a consumer is offered inferior products, if prices are exorbitant, if drugs are unsafe or worthless, if the consumer is unable to choose on an informed basis, then his dollar is wasted, his health and safety may be threatened, and national interest suffers" (CUTS International [online]).

The Bill gave consumers the following four rights:

1. The Right to Safety -- namely to be protected against products which may be potentially hazardous to one's health.

2. The Right to Choose -- an assurance of quality at satisfactory and honest prices.

3. The Right to Information -- to be given the facts that he or she needs to make a fully informed choice, and that fraudulent information should be ejected from the purchase.

The Right to be Heard -- to ensure that customer's complaints -- were they unfairly treated -- would be given a full and unbiased hearing. (CUTS International [online]).

President Gerald Ford, thirteen years later, felt that these strictures were insufficient so he added his Right to Consumer Education which states that every individual has the right to acquire the knowledge and skills to be informed about "the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods so as to protect the consumer against unfair trade practices" (Consumer Redressal Forum; online). However, activists found that even these additions were insufficient and so, in 1985, the Consumers International (CI), representing 240 organizations in over 100 countries, draw up a list of eight requirements that stated that the following requirements should be addressed to all consumers:

1. Basic Needs

2. Safety

3. Information

4. Choice

5. Representation

6. Redress

7. Consumer Education and

8. Healthy Environment. (CUTS International; [online])

The 15th of March became Consumer's Day in an attempt to make sure that these stipulations would be globally acknowledged and obeyed.

Consumer activists, indefatigably, labor to ensure that these objectives are met. To this end, the activists often perceive the typical consumer as being unreflective and unthinking in his or her consumption habits (Gabriel, & Lang, 1995). Consumer activists also criticize consumers as being too susceptible to media advertisements and to corporations, and to being unwilling to consider the moral ramifications of their purchases or, at times, the ethical impact of their purchase (if involving controversial issues) (ibid.). Consumers, therefore, consumer activists insist, have to be educated and influenced. To that purpose, they design a day such as the 1-Day Don't Buy Anything Day event, better known as the Buy Nothing Day, which media coverage has described as directed to consciousness rising. To Friedman (1999), however, consumer activists are unclear in their goals. He sees them as being more emotionally-instigated than rationally-oriented, and sees these sentiments affecting their projects. They are "more concerned with venting the frustrations of the protesting group" than with "practical ends" (Friedman, 1999, pp. 12 -- 13).

Prominent consumer activists include Ralph Nader, and the lesser known Marc Kasky and Peter a. Peyser. Involved organizations are Consumer Federation of America, Public Citizen, and Consumer's Union.

Their tactics span the spectrum from media activism, to petitioning the government, to organizing interest groups, and to media activism.

Consumer activists have their critics. These have generally been businesses that have protested against hyperbolic methods used in -- not always fairly or justly -- denouncing their merchandise. Most times, consumer activists have been protected under the cannon of free speech, and countless organizations have been effected by their claims (Rumbo, 2002).

This essay is a review of consumer activism as an organization, with the purpose of evaluating it, and seeing how we may profit from this knowledge in terms of marketing recommendations.

As originally stated by Tourraine (1977, 1981), any organization can be evaluated according to the following three dimensions: (I) their posited goal, (2) themselves, and (3) their stated adversary (Melucci, 1996). We will use this gauge to measure and evaluate consumer activism.

The Characteristics of Consumer Activists

The goals of consumer activists seem patent: they are designed to protect the public against corporations' duplicitous designs or schemes. Or stated in other words, they seek to promote a situation were: "healthy and employed consumers [are] protected by the state against profiteers, market fluctuations and scarcities, unemployment and disease" (Trentmann, 2001, p. 130).

However, when we evaluate Condition #2 we see, as Tiemstra (1992) has noted, that the movement has developed and that, as it has done so, a more radical stream has emerged that seeks to correlate and associate consumption with moral meaning, namely to marry it with a moral interpretation and with ethical implications. Here, the goal is not only targeting duplicitous marketing and capitalist practices, but is also a focus on the ideology and culture of consumerism that has nothing to do with the practical heuristics of a corporation deliberately tricking a customer into buying his goods. Rather, the onus here is on the consumer himself in an attempt to tell him what to or what not to buy on the grounds that whereas certain acquisitions are ethical, others are not. The third criteria then is rather vague: Are the enemies of consumer activists the merchants who allegedly oppress innocent consumers, or are they the consumers themselves who need to be better informed in order to direct their purchases in a more morally responsible and ethically wise direction?

In order to find out, Kozinets and Handelman (2004).spent 2 years interviewing 13 leaders who represented three different groups involved with consumer activism. The first represented anti-advertising activists that criticized advertising for 'brainwashing 'consumers and also focused on the deleterious effects of consumption on the eco system. The second group represented anti-Nike activists, whilst the third protests against genetically engineered food and crops. These surveys were then reinforced by a form of 'netnography', undertaken over the course of 7 years, where the authors collected discourse data from activist related newsgroups such as alt.activism and in an attempt to trace key themes.

Over and again, the authors found that the activists were invariably linked to religious groups and drew their inspiration and objectives from religious themes. Some of their connotations smack of religious revivalism or a moment of religious awakening, such as when activist Kalle Lasn (1999, p. xiv) writes of his "moment of truth" when, bombarded by newscasts, he realized that humanity is headed for "ecocide -- planetary death"

Their metaphors as Kozinets and Handelman (2004) note:

are rich with religious and spiritual significance, from Plato's cave, to conversion epiphanies, to near death experiences. They suggest the existence of a hidden world to which the Enlightened Master -- the activist, in this case -- has mystically attained access, and from which common people are excluded. (p.696)

It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that many come from Quaker roots. They, inevitably, place an ideological divide between themselves and the 'regular consumer' who, driven to amass 'goodies', does not realize the wastelessness, tepidness, and frivolity of consumption and the terrible consequences that it brings and will continue to bring. Rather they, the 'spiritual' activists share an epiphany of a greater good, and they wish to save the 'common folk' from the damnation of materialism.

Biblical myths are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Consumer Activists What Can We Learn.  (2010, December 20).  Retrieved November 29, 2020, from

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"Consumer Activists What Can We Learn."  20 December 2010.  Web.  29 November 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Consumer Activists What Can We Learn."  December 20, 2010.  Accessed November 29, 2020.