Alex Bogusky: No Consumption Without Representation

Alex Bogusky: No Consumption Without Representation

Oddly enough, in this time of economic power where less than half of the largest economies on earth are countries and more than half are large multi-national corporations, the largest single chunk of the economy is actually consumers.

Alex Bogusky
  • 26 october 2010

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I’m nervous. And when I’m nervous I find it’s hard to write anything. Sort of a dilemma this morning since I need to write something to introduce our new endeavor. The nerves are not only getting in the way, they’re also ironic since the website that goes live today has FearLess written across the top. ( The fingers stutter and halt on the keyboard in the same way the voice would as they search for something safe to write. So maybe they can explain their consternation. Something new always feels risky somehow. I don’t really think it is, but I can’t deny that it has that feeling. You wonder what others will say and if you are a fool. And the truth is that others will say all sorts of stuff and, of course you are a fool. It’s easy to get afraid. Hence the name FearLess. Or really Fear Less. Two words to encourage ourselves, and hopefully even others, to fear just a little less. To be able to push the fear out of the way just enough to move forward. How that gets done is a work in progress each time. For me, over the last several months, my fortitude has come from family, friends, acquaintances and strangers who listened to me and pushed me forward. Along the way, I’ve met the most amazing people. People I never really considered an ad guy would get to hang with. My God, they have all been patient with me. It seems like each week, i’d have some different idea about what I wanted to do or some company I wanted to start. As if that wasn’t confusing enough, it seems like hundreds of people came to me with what they wanted me to do or projects they wanted help on — and as a creative person I saw opportunity in pretty much all of them. Six months of pin-balling around has actually been really fun, but really exhausting, too.

It also says “insurgents in the new consumer revolution” across the top of our site. So what does that mean and what does that make me?

It means there was a common theme in all the meetings and all the ideas and all the ping-balling. The discussions always wound up in this place where people feel like something very fundamental seems to be happening. We would talk about it, and how it felt and but nobody could articulate what this “it” was. Yet everybody seemed to feel “it’.” After six months of these conversations with everybody from CEOs to chefs, I wish i could tell you what this “it” is, but for me I’ve decided to call it, “The New Consumer Revolution.” Now, if you worked in the world of politics, you might just replace “consumer” for “people,” although there is a distinction in where their power comes from.

The march of humanity has been a rough trek here on planet earth. As each new power superseded the last, it’s been mostly good for those in power, but always a bit better for the masses, too. There is always one great power on earth. And as they teach you in elementary school, you can tell who has the most power by the size of the buildings. Who has the biggest building? The kings gave way to the church. The church gave way to the nation state. The nation gave way to corporate power. And each time the general populous gained headway, too. But humanity and democracy still have work to do. Oddly enough, in this time of economic power where less than half of the largest economies on earth are countries and more than half are large multi-national corporations, the largest single chunk of the economy is actually consumers. Consumers are the biggest piece of the economic pie, yet they have no meetings. They have no summit. They aren’t unionized, etc. What I’m suggesting is they have not organized. But so what? Well, why does labor and capital and industry meet and organize? Because that is how they make sure they are represented in the economy. So they get what they want. “Represented.” There’s a word from politics in a discussion of commerce. “No consumption without representation,” is another thought you can find on our site. Consumers haven’t been able to get organized in any traditional ways. And with companies operating across borders, it has been impossible for governments to represent consumers in most nations.

Suddenly, things are changing and it’s the internet that is empowering the change. Man, that internet is sweet. The data on the web and the creation of new tools for consumers to access that data in real time is going to change the relationship between consumers and those they consume from. Our expectations as consumers, in what we deserve for the dollar we hand over, are way too low. All our dollars – both tax dollars and consumption dollars should never go to waste. But today, our consumption dollars often blindly pay for products and services that appear to be cheap, but come with hidden costs. Our food is probably the most dramatic example of this right now. Technology has made possible the creation of food that has never existed on earth and never been tested, and those technologies and ingredients are hidden from the consumer. Yet since the introduction of these technologies, we very suddenly have epidemics of cancers, allergies, obesity, and diabetes that are unprecedented. So how cheap is that food really? Perhaps it’s a coincidence. But don’t we the consumers have the right to decide for ourselves?

And so we will decide. Because although there are lots of special interest groups working to hide the information, the power of consumers to self organize and find the data is going to carry the day. It has already begun and the smartest companies are jumping squarely on the side of the consumer. You don’t want to be hit by this train.

What does this make me? I think I’ll be a consumer advocate for a while. I’m not sure a former advertising executive is allowed to become a consumer advocate, but I plan to give it a shot. This is still America after all.

Wish me luck.

Special thanks to Jeff Oeth, Rob Schuham, Art Rojas, Isaac Karsen and Ana Bogusky

Republished with kind permission.

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