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Business, Psyche

A Shift In The Way We Purchase Just About Everything?

Hands holding out a hundred dollar bill

The innate process of searching for valid meaning and higher ideals in the individual experience may be even more progressively amplified in the collective space of business. As we search for something Greater in our own experience, we also seek to align with causes and ideals that we feel embodied in the organizations we enrich.

In a promising yet equally concerning shift (as it signifies new challenges to be discussed), more and more organizations are recognizing – and taking responsive action – on this conclusion in a way that is complementary to our modern experience.

We continue to see the evolution of choice in how we exchange our finances as a form of support through purchasing a product due to the ideals that is is connected to, with the ‘ultimate’ modern exchange being something that we want anyway providing some potential source of higher value through our purchase.

While certainly the exploration of ‘doing as little as possible to do something meaningful’ reveals a dangerous collective path towards a WALL-E-esque world that we should be weary of, it also opens up a ‘practical possibility’ of generating some form of option that is greater than our current system.

Intentional Products & Services Tied to Causes As The Future Model

Many future brands may dedicate a percentage of all sales (in the form of revenue would be most attractive) to the cause as their primary driver of sales, or sell directly as a non-profit established for this purpose. More existing organizations may also create ‘sister’ non-profits to directly track and report their donations from their for-profit organizations.

This, of course, is an ongoing practice in some senses, though it has yet to become a form of primary marketing for most companies. Tom’s is well-known to commit a third of its profits towards grassroot efforts, and others like Allbirds and Thrive Market provide various contributions to individuals and causes.

As Fast Company reports, research has discovered that there is a relationship between buying something and happiness, when it is considered an investment of an experience (perhaps this could be considered an experience of impact in the world through an intentional purchase):

“Research over the last decade or so has sent out a resounding message: If you want to be happier, invest in experiences rather than things. In their groundbreaking work, psychologists Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich conducted a series of surveys and found that experiences made people happier than goods. Their findings were summarized in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Then in 2010, Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, showed why.”

The shift may take form in the sense that marketing firms and various financial agencies will be asked to determine the best causes, vehicles to support them, and adopt promotions based primarily on this agreement as a means of distinguishing the product (see below for a fantastic example with Clean Cause).

It is a much larger step for many to research non-profit organizations that are aligned with certain values, review their work, and make a donation, than it is to buy a slightly different product in the grocery store or on Amazon; the result may be progressively more similar for the advancement of various causes, assuming that this trend of meaning-based product choice continues in a significant way and the associated companies follow up on their promises.

Changing How We Make Decisions

I believe that not only will it continue, but that it will lead to a significant percentage of our buying choices within the next 5 years. The challenge will develop as so many new companies enter the space (particularly the major corporations) with their proclaimed causes – it will be necessary for groups to determine which are truly effective and following through in a way that is meaningful.

What makes this model so potentially successful and alluring is also what threatens its existence: decisions can be made in a second, based on the promise of the brand label on the shelves in regards to the cause it supports. This also means appropriate follow-up research could be lacking and would need to be encouraged.

Whether this is in the form of supporting the person connected to the brand in a more refined sense than the cereal commercials with an associated athlete, in which case the person may be a symbol for higher ideals or causes, or the brand itself has aligned itself with higher meaning or something thought to be of value.

Among the endless wall of well-branded and colorful energy drinks, it is easy to avoid the many claims and slogans; some offer the best taste, or higher concentrations of various energizing herbs or caffeine content. CLEAN Cause Yerba Mate, which simply proclaims in ultra large font on its bottle: “50% net profits support addiction recovery” can quickly become the most appealing of them all; innervating the mundane choice of which energy drink to buy with meaning that has an impact. Clean Cause is an excellent example of business embracing meaning and a higher purpose as a viable business plan.

The result of this growing model is potentially a switch in the choices made in each aisle; why support a major corporation that we might feel is doing nothing (or worse) over any product in any given category that’s supporting something that we align with. But as quality increase meets applicable causes, the leading brands that are selling based on taste and general quality will have to decide which causes (or individuals or ideals) they would like to align with.

Further Reading:

The Atlantic
CNBC
The Austinot
NY Post

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