Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thrifty Business and WIFM

As we head for the confirmation of the recession in the New Zealand economy we all know has settled in (don't need to be an economist to see that) it is interesting to think about strategies for replying to it as a consumer.

With the bursting of the real estate bubble (which was also no surprise, and actually something of a relief - I was heartily sick of hearing about property prices) and the increases in interest rates many people now find themselves sitting on vast mortgages in which they, effectively, speculated. The pain is spread across the wealth spectrum. The bottom line is that most households will be more circumspect about spending - whether it is on a new Ferrari or a packet of chocolate cookies.

The silver lining must be the opportunity to persuade the population of the personal value of consuming less. If you don't need it - don't buy it.

'What's in it for me'(WIFM) is a much stronger driver of human behaviour than altruism (we might self-report a willingness to sacrifice for others, but our biology informs our actions more potently than it does our intentions - on an aircraft the instruction to ensure you have oxygen in the event that a mask falls in front of your face before assisiting others is the perfect synopsis of this idea.

Instead of saying 'You don't need that (magazine, journey, packaging … insert almost anything)' the dynamic shifts to 'I don't need …'. Self motivation is when things genuinely happen without the need for legislation. If you are creating 'green' communication I recommend monetising the message: Long life light bulbs will save you X dollars a month on your electricity bill. Don't even mention the environment. We've got the message already. Show people how to do more with less. The pious evangelist sphere is saturated and the hot air can't be good for climate change.

Who knows, reduced circumstances might also reduce calorie consumption which, in turn, will reduce the pressure on health services. The market will prove itself to be the most efficient regulator where the hand of government is always clumsy and corrupted by ideology and vested interest.

Money talks.

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