Better Businiess and a Better World Via Better Strategic Research

I am currently enjoying a refreshing perspective on restructuring capitalist ideals for modern life. It suggests and illustrates philosophies and practices that both adapt to and anticipate the needs and consequences of a modern globalized economy and consumer culture.

In The New Capitalist Manifesto, Umair Haque talks about Constructive Capitalism; a disruptive and productive way for business to create what he calls “thick” value that sustains.

He talks about “socio-productivity”, which means creating markets and industries for those whom orthodox capitalism is unable to serve…creating “impossible” new markets…essentially giving all of “us” humans the power to play the game and improve our collective experience. He uses the example of Tata motors and their creation of the Nano: a super-low cost car for the poor living in ultra-urbanized emerging markets.

What IF we could use the power of human understanding, empathy and consumer insight to help make life more fulfilling for everyone? I have a wide-eyed vision that through practices like Consumer Anthropology, we can do just that.

Consumer Anthropology asserts there are several contextual spheres of influence involved in the creation, dissemination and evolution of consumer culture. Among those, at a minimum, are 3 C’s: Clients (organizations seeking to sell a product or idea), macro Culture (macro forces and people trends) and Consumers (attitudes, values, behaviors, etc.). Breakthrough innovation happens when at least these three spheres find synergy.

Imagine if every brand actively practiced this kind of holistic simultaneous understanding: of themselves, the world they live in, and their consumer. They would consistently be able to deliver not only better products and marketing, but would likely be inspired to do so using increasingly sustainable business practices.

They would find ways to serve the underserved in unique ways that both satisfied unmet consumer needs and shareholder value requirements. And most likely, shareholders and employees (who, as it turns out, are also humans and consumers) will feel a higher sense of purpose, knowing that they have the power, privilege and obligation to address the bigger needs of the world we all live in. And there the “thick” value cycle starts and continues.

Oh, the vision of a Utopian marketplace powered by good intentions. And here’s a secret you may not be party to just yet: I’ve learned it from years of participant observation in this business: it’s totally possible. 😉

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2 responses to “Better Businiess and a Better World Via Better Strategic Research

  1. Hi Jamie,

    I love your raw enthusiasm and positive outlook, and I share your passion for consumer anthropology.
    Thank you for another thought provoking post. Yes, I do feel that strategic consumer research has the potential to foster a better world. After all, “consumption” in its many forms is really nothing more than a survival strategy employed by individuals and communities to survive and thrive in an ever-changing global marketplace.

    A closer examination of consumers and the culture they construct in their everyday lives has the potential to provide corporations/brands with a more holistic understanding of their product offerings and the communities they serve. This can and does lead to innovations and improvements that create that “thick” sustainable value.

    There has been much written/talked about in recent years regarding the topic of sustainability and corporate responsibility. We have the 3 P’s (People, Planet and Profit), which were meant to expand our definition of sustainability, but perhaps brands should be focused on your 3 C’s (Clients, Culture, Consumers) instead.

    I’ve learned through my own consumer research exploring this topic that one of the obstacles to making a meaningful and profitable impact through sustainable business practices is the fact that the term “sustainability”, while gaining traction, is still little used or understood in consumer circles. There is only a vague sense of what this word means, and how it applies to “my life”. Before attributes of sustainability (authenticity, transparency, partnership, greater good) can resonate with consumers, the experience must first qualify as a quality experience for the individual. We must listen and understand at the individual level in order to make sense of things at the cultural level, and this is where consumer anthropological research methods can play a critical role.

    thanks again for the post.

    Matt

  2. I, too, admire your enthusiasm and your vision. However, as long as corporations are committed to making a profit — both for their stockholders and officers, this ethos will take precedence over sustainability. The key to using the planet’s resources intelligently is regulation, and that’s where research can be useful. It can help to explore and build consumer consensus and political action for a greener earth.

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