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How Consumerism & Environmentalism Affect Marketing

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  • 0:00 Two Effects on Marketing
  • 0:32 What is Consumerism?
  • 1:18 How has Consumerism…
  • 2:58 What is Environmentalism?
  • 3:37 How has…
  • 4:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

While the two are often at odds with each other, consumerism and environmentalism have both transformed marketing. This lesson demonstrates how that change occurred in the last several decades.

Two Effects on Marketing

In the past few decades, two new trends have emerged in American consumer culture that have each had a massive impact on the way goods are marketed. In fact, in many ways they have had somewhat opposite reactions. However, no one can deny that consumerism and environmentalism have changed the way goods and services are bought and sold in the United States. In this lesson, we're going to look at both consumerism and environmentalism, defining them both. Afterwards, we'll look at how each has had an effect on marketing in the past six decades.

What is Consumerism?

Look around your house. Chances are you have a lot of things you don't need. After all, do you really need a TV in the living room and the bedroom? Or all those shoes? You can only where one pair at time, right? However, society does tell us we need all of this stuff. This emphasis on buying more and more goods is known as consumerism. While the term is more than a hundred years old, consumerism has only come into its own in the past few decades. Following World War II, people had the means to purchase a great number of goods as well as the desire to show off that ability. Needless to say, this worked out well for many producers of goods, as they were able to make plenty of money during that period.

How has Consumerism Affected Marketing?

Now, put yourself in the shoes of a marketing director from this period. Suddenly you have a society that has transitioned from living in austerity to now having plenty of disposable income. How do you react? In short, you react by convincing people that it's okay to buy more and more. Not only is it okay, but it's the new normal. Picture the stereotypical, white, American family in the 1950's. There's a shiny new car in the driveway, fashionable clothes on everyone, and maybe even a new TV. If there's no TV, there's certainly a radio and both forms of media are portraying people enjoying buying more and more.

Marketing changed, moving from being based solely on the utility of an object to emphasizing both utility and style. The rapid pace of technological development helped with this. An old washing board was utilitarian, but a new washing machine was not only a time saver but also could be sleek, with space-aged design. Marketing transformed to accept that this new generation of consumers wanted it all. And through new goods, it could all be provided to them.

Finally, the buying power of women was really targeted for the first time. With more disposable income, marketing now appealed to the other half of the domestic equation. Of course, these are as gender role driven, as you'd expect, with ads going beyond necessities and focusing on helping a woman cook, clean, and remain cute and pretty. While it was a time of change for marketing, the early days of consumerism were still very sexist.

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