Epic Thread tells the story of a girl who decides to find out how her T-shirt was made by following a loose thread first back to the factory where it was made and then to the farm where the cotton was grown. Along the way she discovers that no child labour was involved in its production and that it was grown in a sustainable way.
It is a very modern parable that taps into a growing trend towards more socially aware consumer behaviour.
In Authentic Brands: from Transparency to Full Disclosure,Authentic Brands: from Transparency to Full Disclosure, Fernley and Beattie found that around the world brand transparency is now more persuasive than brand status as people are motivated more by how a brand behaves than its perceived status. A luxury brand sourcing from sweatshops is less attractive than a brand with better practices.
People are changing. They are becoming investigative consumers, curious about the politics around the things they spend their money on and the real world behaviour of the companies behind the brands. They are not blithely accepting the traditional sources that inform brand choice – advertising, reviews, celebrity endorsement etc. They are digging around themselves and asking friends or others sources they trust.
In Kill the Consumer, Jon Alexander shows the positive effect of people adopting the label “citizen” rather than “consumer”. One study took a sample of people and asked half to fill in something called the Consumer Reaction Study and the other half to do the same for a Citizen Reaction Study. The questions were the same but the “citizens” cared more about society and the environment.
Meanwhile, Andy Wheatley thinks it is time for brand owners and advertising agencies to start encouraging citizen behaviour. He argues brands, as a powerful global force, could make a massive difference if they encouraged citizen rather than consumer behaviour.
Ultimately, it will be people themselves who decide whether they are looking at life through the filter of one label or another. Since the defining event of the great crash, more and more people have been adopting a less wasteful, destructive and reckless lifestyle. They have paid off debt rather than racking it up; they buy local and value quality and craftsmanship in everything from clothes to beer and coffee. Some brands picked up on this quickly and some bigger ones were slower, but there doesn’t seem to be any return to pre-crash bling consumerism.