Art & Commerce: Righting The Wrongs Of The World, Choice By Choice

I appreciate Debra Goldman›s view that it is not the consumer›s job to set all of the world›s wrongs right [Consumer Republic, Dec. 13].
But her argument is just as oversimplified as those who would dismiss the WTO protests as ˜crackpot.” Certainly, there is empirical evidence that consumers have much more impact than her logic leads us to believe„are we all just mindless, purely selfish shoppers as she suggests?
Nike and Kathie Lee Gifford would disagree. Fashionable causes? Maybe. Or maybe a small part of the larger ˜battle over globalization” that Goldman foresees. Here are a few more homegrown examples: hemp; organic produce; ˜Buy American”; the Cuban embargo; ˜This product is made with recycled materials”„all consumer expressions of shared social values. As marketing researchers, we watch these types of trends take hold; consumer values often go from the marginal to the majority in surprisingly little time these days.
Consumption›s focus may be individual (although in reality, the majority is familial and has much greater impact), but the consequences are collective and, more importantly, incremental. That›s the key. Only an outright embargo has the potential to force short-term change. But the millions of individual and collective consumer choices made every day have the power to shape long-term outcomes.
The protesters in Seattle exhibited an embarrassing ignorance of history and an appalling inability to think about the future of a world past their own lifetimes. Both, unfortunately, are classic American traits.
Unfortunately, true change is the result of thousands and thousands of small choices, which often seem insignificant at the time. If we are counting on politicians and special-interest groups to right the wrongs of the world, we›ll be waiting even longer.
John Holcombe
Vice president, research director
Strategy Research Corp.

An Observation About The Creative Portfolio
Twenty-four white men, two women, a guy named Wong and the only thing black is clothing [Adweek 2000, Dec 13]. Maybe we should ask ourselves, are we really entering a new millennium?
Greg Morelli
New York