Review of ConsumerShift

The most important change happening in the minds of consumers today is a shift towards post-modern values systems.   ConsumerShift is a comprehensive cartography of the emerging consumer psyche.

Andy Hines notes five key themes at the core of these changes — Authenticity, Connection, Anti-Consumerism, Self-Expression, and Enoughness.  Consumers in the emerging new culture increasingly view their purchases to be a form of self-expression and a reflection of their personal values.  

Perhaps the most impressive element of the book is the range of intellectual frameworks that Hines incorporates to develop a meta-model of client psychology.  ConsumerShift  touches on over two dozen different theoretical models in understanding consumer values and psychology.   This breadth can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it also confirms that Hines has done his homework. 

Hines’ clearest contribution is the New Dimensions Values Inventory.  This relies heavily on Ron Inglehart’s World Values Survey and Don Beck’s work in Spiral Dynamics, which shows how levels of social development can influence value systems.  

Presently, the largest segment of the U.S. population has conventionally modern values, but a quarter of the population has shifted into post-modern values.  Meanwhile, a much smaller part of the population has possibly moved a step further towards adopting an integral values system, which is only partially defined at this time. 

The New Dimensions Values Inventory provides the clearest view that I’ve seen yet on why tomorrow’s consumers may be different than yesterday’s consumers, as our cultural center of gravity moves from the modern to post-modern era.

Here is an example of how consumer values can shift from one stage to the next:

Modern                             Postmodern                     Integral

Achievement                      Enjoyment                       Contentment

Belonging                          Self-Expression                

Growth                              Sustainability

Individuality                      Community                       Connectivity

Convenience                     Customization                  Personalization

Independence                   Uniqueness

Luxury                               Simplicity                            

Quality                               Design                             Co-Creation

Hines also notes a total of thirteen catalysts, grouped into three sets of related themes.  These catalysts are shaping consumers from the outside while being influenced by consumers themselves:

  • Engaged Consumers:    Shifting from a passive to active orientation.  Empowered individuals, emerging market rise, consumer co-creation, consumer augmentation
  • Blurring Boundaries: Navigating the emerging virtual world.  Ubiquitous connection, life-shifting, truth and truthiness, integration of virtual and real, continuum of ownership
  • Bounded Consumption: Confronting new limits to the lifestyle choices.  Enoughness, living within limits, sustainable consumption, relocation

Catalysts combine with values to create the “need states” of consumers.  Hines distills these into seven themes or meta-needs which he uses to illustrate basic personality types of the emerging consumer:

  • Keeping it Real:  Preference for the straight story
  • Pushing the Envelope:  Challenging performance boundaries
  • Every Moment Matters: Taking back control of one’s time
  • The Pursuit of Happiness:  Taking responsibility for one’s well being
  • Community First:  Preference for things local
  • We Are the World:  Feeling responsibility for the well-being of the planet
  • Glass Houses:  Everyone is watching

A unique and novel element of this book is its use of QR codes – square boxes of pixelated data that can be scanned by a cell phone to open web-based videos of Hines discussing selected topics in greater detail.   Readers can comment on the videos and participate in an online dialogue.   As a futurist, it is nice to see Hines pushing the boundaries of traditional print media.  Much more additional content is also available at his blog.

There is a considerable amount of information here developed within a rigorous conceptual framework.  Because ConsumerShift is packed with so many ideas, it is worth reading twice to really grasp the breadth of what Hines is thinking.

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