Some thoughts on holiday shopping

I always feel a bit strange writing on these sorts of topics given my career heavily revolves around marketing. If I can’t get folks to web sites and if they don’t buy, well, I don’t get paid.

Still, over the years I’ve tried to work with products and services I have some faith in and I’ve been lucky enough for quite a while to also be heavily involved with green businesses.

Being involved in the marketing game for so long has given also me a degree of insight into why people buy things – often it’s simply because marketers tell them to; by focusing on common fears, pain points and conscience; more so than focusing on how the product or service solves a problem. Sometimes companies will create a problem that doesn’t really exist in order to sell the product that solves it.

I could go on for some time as to the “strategies” used, but it boils down to this. As much as we want to believe we are strong willed individuals, most of us fall for common marketing tricks. Even I do, and I know them all! I really hate walking out of a store and thinking “why the hell did I buy that?” as I really should know better. We want to believe.

Around this time of the year I hear a lot of people saying how much they hate Xmas and it’s too commercialized etc. etc. … still, many of these people will join the masses when the holiday shopping season “officially” begins this week.

After all, if you don’t buy people you care about gifts at this time of the year, that tells them you don’t care about them right? It makes you a terrible person, correct? And anyway, you always give at this time of the year, it’s a family tradition!

It’s a tradition because marketers made it one. You can give people you care about gifts at any time of the year… and do those people really need or want the things we buy them? It’s the thought that counts right? I often wonder if that saying was unleashed by a marketing firm :). Perhaps the thought does count – but do we really think before making a gift purchase decision?

Some people do put up a fight against holiday shopping and join causes such as Buy Nothing Day. It’s a day of protest against unnecessary consumption that usually occurs the Friday after American Thanksgiving, which is coincidentally (actually, it’s no coincidence) one of the busiest shopping days of the year. It’s a great concept, but if it’s too extreme for you, try the Buy Something But Make It Worthwhile Day. I just made that up.

It’s not so much how or when we give – it’s what we give.

On Buy Something But Make It Worthwhile Day this Friday (or any day you choose), before purchasing anything, ask yourself a few simple questions:

– Do I/he/she really need it?
– Do I/he/she really want it?
– How will this improve my/his/her life?
– Do I/he/she already have access to something that will solve the problem it addresses?
– What is the environmental impact of this purchase (packaging etc.)

The answers will help you formulate a reason for going ahead with the purchase or rejecting it.

Make these questions a habit and before you know it, every day you purchase something will be Buy Something But Make It Worthwhile Day!

Buying someone something they probably don’t need or perhaps even want when multiplied millions of times, which occurs every day, is not only a waste of your own money, it creates an appreciable negative environmental impact. The resources used to make the product, package the product and transport it don’t come from thin air.

Think about all the junk purchases we make as individuals and bear in mind you’re not the only one – you can start to appreciate the scale of unnecessary consumption that clever marketing creates.

I’m not suggesting we all don cassocks and live like monks, never buying “fun” gifts; just that we all need to think a little before whipping out the plastic – to make informed purchase decisions, to buy gifts that matter – and for the right reasons. Don’t let the marketers trap you, block out the spin and the hype; the more garbage we consume, the more junk companies will churn out. No demand, no junk.

Shrewd purchase decisions are good for the environment and good for your bank account!

Check out a gift few ideas in my article “Better, greener gifts“. And no, I’m not telling you to buy those specifically, nor will I make any money if you do – it’s just to get you thinking outside of the more traditional gift choices.