by Charlotte Beal
At Iconoculture, we frequently focus on more aspirational attitudes of consumers. We’ve talked about how consumers are taking on new responsibilities for their health, how they’re gamifying new aspects of their lives in order to achieve personal goals, and how some people are giving up fast fashion and fast food for better causes. And yet, a darker side of the story usually exists.
Sure, people are trying to cook more. The truism is that people eat fast food because it’s cheaper. But the reality check is that fast food is easier. It gets people out of shopping, cooking and doing dishes, and it guarantees that kids will like dinner — talk about value for the money. In a recent New York Times column that debunked the “cheaper” assumptions about burgers and fries, Mark Bittman seemed to forget that convenience is a vital part of value (25 September 2011).
What we believe about consumers’ health attitudes needs a reality check, too. Yes, more consumers are working on wellness … as long as you define “wellness” loosely. Stats show that people overestimate their health (a fact most recently supported by a study from the International Food Information Council Foundation, 5 May 2011). That’s a sign that businesses might be wise to focus on empowerment — a euphemism for education.
Perhaps the most Get Real cohort of all? Moms and dads. Today’s parents seem to be more happily invested in spending time with their kids. Yet at birthday parties from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, Xer parents revel in the subversive comedy of the TV show Louie, particularly moments when the title character curses at his daughters behind their backs. Louie is popular for the same reason Go the F*ck to Sleep was such a hit: emotional honesty. Constant pressure to do the right, healthy, frugal thing is exhausting, and everyone has a breaking point. Yes, maybe consumers could do better — but first, how about a pat on the back for everything they already get right?