Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Active Consumerism

Are you a passive consumer? Does a tv ad or display in a store catch your gaze and you end up buying something that you were not planning on getting? We get bombarded with so many different kinds of ads for products, and many of them we really do not need. A good marketer can make you think that you need something for long enough so that you buy it! This is not to say that all "impulse purchases" are bad or wrong, just that many times (for me, at least) buying something unplanned turns out to be something I could have lived without just fine.

Or are you an active consumer? I see an active consumer as someone who is aware of what is out there, but is able to fight of the urge to buy something just because it is new, different, exciting, or even (gasp) on sale! Additionally, I think an active consumer is someone who wants to give feedback to a company, thus seeking to impact what that company produces for other fellow consumers.

Usually I do not think about contacting a company unless something is wrong with a product. Even then, much of the time we are more likely to throw something away and forget about it trying to get in touch with someone and complaining (unless it is a larger purchase, of course). Last fall I started writing to different companies that made a product our family liked. In my email, I tell the company why I like their product. I try to be very specific, both about the product that we like as well as why we like it. I got this idea from Kristen at Couponing to Disney who tries to write to 5 companies every day. I am not that ambitious, and I took most of December off because we were so busy, but I do try to write to a few companies a week.

Usually I will receive an email back within just a few days. I imagine that most of the people who contact a company are complaining, so many times these reply emails are very appreciative of the good feedback. Sometimes you will also be sent coupons for that company's product in the mail -- and there are times the coupon is for a free product!

One example I wanted to share is with Glade candles by SC Johnson. I really really really like Glade's soy candles. Mostly because they smell really good and because coupons and sales are a-plenty for them, I have found great deals on them! So I wrote to SC Johnson and told them how much I like their candles. They sent me a follow-up email and told me I would be getting a coupon for a free candle - sweet! When my coupon arrived, it also contained a coupon book for other Glade products. Because of the coupons I received in the mail, I tried a different Glade product...and ended up being very disappointed. It did not work like the package said (I read the instructions very carefully!), so I decided to email them again. I was a bit worried that they would not take my complain seriously because I have just emailed about 3 weeks before saying how much I like their products! Well it turns out the problem I had was one that other had complained about, so I was sent some coupons for free Glade products along with another coupon book! SC Johnson is one of my favorite companies in terms of having great customer service!

So I encourage you to take a step to be a more active consumer. Do you really like the Barilla tortellini you made for dinner? Or a specific flavor of IBC soda? Or do you prefer the old pour spout on International Delights coffee creamer instead of that new one that drips when you shake it up??? (I may or may not have answered yes to all of the above....) Then tell the company! Thank them for making something that you really enjoy, or pose a suggestion on something you preferred that was changed. Most companies have a form on the 'Contact Us' section of their website, which makes it super easy to write down a paragraph or two. It really only takes 5 minutes of your time, and it is a simple step towards becoming a more active consumer.

A really interesting video about Subliminal Advertising is on YouTube


  1. When the pop top soup can lids came out by Campbell's, my mom wrote them a letter telling them how much she appreciated the improvement and she got coupons for a bunch of free soups. This is a great idea!

  2. That is a great idea! I recently watched Food Inc, which is hugely informative (though a little bit scary. The food industry in this country is really crazy). But the one thing that was most interesting was when they talked about the power of the consumer. And how you don't think about it- but every purchase you make, really does cast a vote for that product. And the producers listen to those votes.


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