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2007 Trends : Brand Abstinence

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2007 will see the rise of brand abstinence. A mix of ethical consumerism and brand disappointment will fuel a growth in apathy held by some consumers when it comes to...

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 3 january 2007

2007 will see the rise of brand abstinence.  A mix of ethical consumerism and brand disappointment will fuel a growth in apathy held by some consumers when it comes to new product purchases.

For corporations, at best this will result in a shift towards products that offer these consumers a guilt free purchase, at worse, these consumers will turn to brand abstinence and recycle, re-craft, maintain and retain products they of their peers own.

In their videos Simon, W and Adrian suggest that 2007 will see a shift in power from brands to consumers – to a place where brands will be tailored and responsible to consumer needs. We sense that this may very well happen but not just yet. We just don’t think brands have it in them to change as fast as some consumers want. Some consumers will demand chemical free, sustainable, local, artisan, eco-consious, organic, considered products that are tailored for their life but big brands aren’t going to provide them. Larger brands make money by selling their products in the millions and billions; in their eyes, ethical products remain niche and low volume. It’s only the continued demand for products like Prius and American Apparel tees and that will give large corporations the confidence to invest in eco-conscious areas.

In response to this inertia by larger brands, some consumers will react by engaging in brand abstinence. When no healthy products are available, these consumers will ask questions like, "Why should I replace my phone so often? What will happen to my old one? Why upgrade my PC? Do I really need a faster machine made of plastic and metal just to surf the web?" They will wonder what their product purchase decisions will mean to the world around them. It’s interesting to note that consumer-good fetish site CoolHunting.com have gone as far as suggesting that they’re resolution for 2007 will be to consume less of the world’s resources. December’s Wallpaper magazine cover cried "Less But Better" (possibly an echo of an article on Treehugger entitled "Less Is The New More"). Over at Influx Insights, they suggest consumers will begin to choose brands based on how they use energy. Maybe we’ll even see some consumers go as far as choose news sites over newspapers because of production and waste issue.

Sometimes these consumers will hang on longer to their products they own, but others will be inspired to the craft movement where electronics get re-scrambled and reused and vintage clothes torn apart and remixed. This craft movement has been championed and popularized by O’Reilly Media who publish Make and Craft magazine online and off. Smaller brands have already jumped on this trend – CScout points to recycled chic sneakers and bags by Terra Plana and Frietag. Rob Walker wrote in the NY Times Magazine recently about the rise of homemade soap for people with a ‘clear conscience‘. And for brand abstainers that really do need to buy stuff, Etsy provides an handmade craft alternative to eBay and Amazon; and Apple provides refurbished second-hand iPods on their site.

Of course, not all consumers will be driven to abstain – but the numbers of the ones who do will grow and this won’t be just from peer pressure. Warmer winters and odd weather will no doubt make more folk (like Cynthia here) question their role in the planet’s health and when they turn to the brands and find they have little to offer as a solution, they’ll surely shift to a back-to-basics mentality.

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