Let 'Consumed' Consume You, If You're Interested in Getting Ahead

Jeffrey Hayzlett Reviews New Book From Andrew Benett and Ann O'Reilly

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Maybe it's something about the title, but "Consumed" can be -- and for those looking to be better in our industry, should be -- consuming. Andrew Benett and Ann O' Reilly seek to answer the question of why we purchase, peruse and play in today's global marketplace. Set in the context of today's new economic reality, it's even more relevant for those wanting to survive and thrive.

Setting the stage, Benett and O' Reilly look at the evolution of economics and the cultural transformations that led to a society where Big Macs never seem big enough and where "super-sized" has become standard size. They examine how society went from being self-sufficient (never wasting a scrap of fabric or food), to one where maxxed-out credit cards and shopping malls defined our lifestyle. The authors effectively depict a change in generations framed by the political and technological changes of the 20th century and that relied on the escalation of advertising and marketing to show us what we want -- though not necessarily what we need. They also chronicle the impact of the dramatic turn of the last few years when environmental awareness, a credit crisis and energy prices caused us to rethink that very behavior.

With the historical perspective set, Benett and O' Reilly then explore four paradigms for the new consumer: embracing substance, right-sizing, growing up, and purposeful pleasure. Using a conversational, but not overtly casual, tone, Benett and O' Reilly cite examples to further their argument for the four paradigms. They delve into a new generation of consumer for whom purchasing products that are good for the planet and local economy are a priority. They look at projects such as numbered stickers on Dole Organic Bananas that allow shoppers to track the food back to the farm where it came from, or the trend toward green weddings using recycled paper for invitations and homemade bubbles instead of rice or birdseed.

Going beyond the who and why, Benett and O' Reilly conclude by offering practical advice for relating to the new consumer, which requires an understanding of the aging Baby Boomer population, wastefulness becoming unpopular and giving consumers a connection to brands and products through social and traditional media. They offer examples of companies that hit the sweet spot by acknowledging change, by creating opportunity or adapting to it, and by relating to the new consumer who seeks value and values from the businesses they use.

For example, they examine the Starbucks 2009 partnerships with the Corporation for National and Community Service and HandsOn Network, which rewarded consumers with a free drink if they pledged five or more hours volunteering. The project resulted in 1.5 million hours pledged.

Benett and O' Reilly also look at the bottom-line benefits Hyundai has earned from its Assurance Plus project which, in 2009, covered three months of car payments for Hyundai buyers who lost their jobs. The car maker's market share rose 1.2. They also support their suggestions with input from current and emerging leaders in the business world, including executives from Charles Schwab and Liberty Mutual, who apply their understanding into action, by creating campaigns and customer understanding focused on consumers living within their means and planning for their financial future.

The last few years have presented us with unprecedented changes and challenges. "Consumed" looks to not only figure out what caused these changes, but most important, how we can make the most of them using our understanding to create new opportunities. For those readers seeking success in the new market place, "Consumed" is truly consuming.

Jeffrey Hayzlett is author of "The Mirror Test" and marketing expert. He's also recognized as one of the top C-suite executives on Twitter. As the CMO for Eastman Kodak, he's been recognized for turning around the iconic brand. Reach him at @jeffreyhayzlett, @themirrortest or Facebook.com/jeffrey.hayzlett.
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