Friday, April 27, 2007

Kyoto and consumption

In the last couple of weeks, we have been entitled to the professions of faith of citizens, politicians and journalists, towards the dogma of the Kyoto protocol. Hand on the heart, they all proclaim their everlasting support for the norms of this agreement. This is only so much hypocrisy.

It is well known that several interest groups, encouraged by politicians whose good faith can be questioned, succeeded in creating, with the complicity of a few journalists, a psychosis around this question; a Globe and Mail survey reveals that more than 60% of Canadians wish to see the Kyoto objectives respected.

Environmental changes caused by human activity are very alarming; it is essential to take measures to control polluting emissions. Since such is the case, why has nothing been done in the last 10 years? That I know, Mr Harper’s government was not in power in 1998, neither in 2000, nor in 2004… It seems to me that several people who howl today did nothing to ensure the attainment of objectives when they had the capacity to do so.

Are those highly virtuous citizens, allegedly worried about the environment, truly willing to make an effort to change their habits and reduce their consumption? WE have created the consumer society and we all are its accomplices; nobody forces us to consume so much and so badly. Can one ignore the fact that consumption requires production, and that said production causes polluting emissions?

I’ll believe that people are serious about reducing those emissions when I see them consuming less and better. Buying smaller cars, not washing them every Saturday letting water flow for over an hour, not letting the engine idle for ten minutes, often more, in the winter to avoid boarding a cold vehicle, not overheating their houses in the winter and air-conditioning them to excess in the summer, etc.

For the first time, we have a plan and it is realistic. Of course, one can fault Minister Baird for not respecting the letter of the Kyoto protocol; his plan is nevertheless credible and pragmatic. My experience in business taught me that it is preferable to set lower objectives and reach them rather than to have too ambitious a target and miss it. If the opposition parties believe that they can do better, they should overthrow the current government, it is after all a minority government, get elected, propose a better plan and above all that that this plan be more than a theoretical program to get elected, in other words wishful thinking!

I have many other points to develop; I keep them for a forthcoming chronicle. For the moment, I would like to know your opinion on these various questions.

How worried are you about environmental changes?

Are Kyoto objectives attainable?

Are you willing to modify your consumption habits to reduce polluting emissions?

Are you ready to pay more for a product it the company that manufactures it uses more expensive, but less polluting, processes?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Relational expects

Relational expects refer to a consumer’s wish for personal interactions. The most typical example of this type of expects is that of a client expecting advice from a salesperson when purchasing clothing, cosmetics, a car, etc. For that matter, not wanting the assistance of a salesperson is also a form of relational expect, which explains the existence of «warehouse» type stores in which customers help themselves. Even in traditional type stores that offer sales assistance to customer, salespeople must be sufficiently shrewd to detect clients who wish to choose without assistance. In this category of expects, one must also consider personal interactions with other users of a brand, within user groups such as AUG (Apple User Groups – CanadaUnited StatesUnited Kingdom), Miata (Okanagan ValleyWorldwide sites), Mini (VancouverUnited Kingdom) et HOG (Harley Owners Group – CanadaWorldwide sites). These groups are components of a brand; as such, they incite purchase.

Tourism provides many examples of products that appeal to relational expects, home exchange associations for instance. Belonging to such clubs of exchangers allows one to meet new people, to develop friendships and to maintain privileged personal relationships. The various travel classes featured by airlines are also a response to the diversity of expects travellers have regarding their preferred quality of service.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Financial expects

Financial expects refer to the consumer’s demands regarding price, what it costs to purchase and use goods or services. Several factors influence those expects, particularly available financial resources and the consumer’s values. Some prefer to buy the least expensive product; others may be willing to pay a slightly higher price to reduce expenses related to product use. Wanting to pay a higher price may also often relate to image concerns.

There is a very close link between financial expects and those of other categories, particularly functional and symbolic. Thus, one may accept to pay a higher price, if convinced that the product is of a higher quality (functional expect) or for a prestigious brand (symbolic expect); some people systematically buy the most expensive products because they associate price to excellence. Those with a sharp social conscience will also accept to pay a slightly higher price for a product whose production process is respectful of the environment; the same is true of products distributed through fair trade. For example, «Fairtrade Coffee» is a more expensive product, but which «prevents the exploitation of coffee workers and growers. It ensures they earn a decent living and supports environmentally friendly growing practices».

In many cases, financial expects result in a compromise. For example, the buyer who would like to get the top-of-the-line model with all available options, but must be content with a less expensive model featuring fewer options. For that matter, leasing plans offered by manufacturers can be seen as another form of compromise: allowing the consumer to get a luxurious vehicle while avoiding a massive purchase expense. The fact that this type of contract is often more expensive in the long run is of lesser importance for the consumer.

Tourist products are also offered in a wide range of prices corresponding to a variety of functional, symbolic, relational, etc. expects. In my opinion, in the field of tourism, the most interesting phenomenon concerning financial expects is the offer of plane tickets at bargain prices on Internet sites, for last minute reservations; for example, «» in the United Kingdom, «CheapTicketsCanada.Com» in Canada and «» in the United States. If in Canada airlines such as «WestJet» offer low cost regular flights, in Europe, «easyJet» and «Ryanair» offer incredibly low airfares for flights to the United Kingdom and continental Europe. This relatively new distribution network fully answers expects of consumers whose main concern is to pay the minimum price.

What have your financial expects been for your last important purchase?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sensory expects

Sensory expects first relate to the pleasure, or rather the pleasures, of consumption itself, to the satisfaction of getting what one wants. They also express pleasure of the senses driven from the use products purchased. Finally, the pleasure can relate to pleasant memories associated to a product or a brand.

Advertising in general suggests the satisfaction obtained merely from consumption itself; the increasingly frequent use of sensual, even of sexual, images, texts or scenarios, to sell anything and everything, reinforces this aspect. Regarding sensual bliss, one can think of the gustatory pleasure associated with food, the tactile pleasure linked with the feel of a silky fabric, the pleasant sensation of cleanliness experienced using such a body soap, the olfactory pleasure triggered by perfume, etc. To understand the pleasure involving memories, merely think about vacationers or tourists: having returned home, they seek to prolong pleasant memories of their trip by consuming products either imported from the country they visited or whose symbolism evokes their journey.

Hedonism is often used to sell tourist products; in fact, a chain of super vacation resorts chose the name Hedonism II. In 2005, its web site featured devotion to pleasure, particularly pleasure of the senses, «a non-stop flat out party», «an active vacation for the mind, body, spirit and soul». In 2007, the chain created the «Hedonistic Delights» product line, «amenities & services to suit all your guilty pleasures».

Does the search for sensory pleasures influence your purchase decisions?

Does the search for pleasure drive you to consume more?