As the effects of the global recession linger, consumers are changing the way they shop, becoming more budget-conscious, eco-aware and cause-oriented, while paying greater attention to what, why and from whom they are buying. Arnold Worldwide has named its top ten public figures, across entertainment, business and politics, who are helping to promote the era of "mindful spending."
Andrew Benett, global CEO of Arnold Worldwide and global chief strategy officer of Havas Worldwide, describes the downfall of hyper-consumption and the rise of "the new consumer" in his forthcoming book, Consumed: Rethinking Business in an Era of Mindful Spending, co-authored by Ann O'Reilly, content director of the Euro RSCG Worldwide Knowledge Exchange.
Despite the fact that glitz and abundance are alive and well in mainstream media (think: Bravo's The Real Housewives and E!'s Keeping Up with the Kardashians), there is a fast-growing set of Americans who reject excess and artificiality in favor of authenticity, substance and interconnectedness, Benett says. According to a survey of 5,700 adults in seven countries conducted for Consumed, nearly 80 percent of Americans feel society is becoming too shallow and believe most of us would be better off if we lived more simply.
"For the last two decades, Americans believed bigger was better—from the size of our houses to our cars to the amount of food on our dinner plates. But the economic recession, coupled with other factors like the green movement, is fundamentally changing American attitudes," said Benett. "Instead of super-sizing, we're ‘right-sizing' and re-evaluating what's important in life. We're saving more, wasting less and giving back."
Benett released his list of the ten most influential public figures who embrace qualities of the mindful consumer, such as a commitment to sustainability efforts, a focus on giving and a more thoughtful approach to consumption:
10) Ludacris — Rappers are not always known for their humility, generosity and environmentally conscious attitudes; Ludacris isn't your average rapper. Through The Ludacris Foundation, he has donated $1.5 million to support youth-oriented, grassroots organizations and devoted more than 5,000 hours of service, all while paying special attention to his hometown of Atlanta. Did we mention that Ludacris owns a hybrid and is installing solar panels on his home?
9) Suze Orman — While the financial market collapsed, Orman's stock rose as she convinced people what NOT to buy during the economic recession. She is viewed as a trusted financial expert, helping Americans become fiscally responsible through her television show, eight consecutive New York Times bestsellers and frequent guest spots on a range of programs from Oprah to The Biggest Loser.
8) Indra K. Nooyi — As the CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi wants those of us who indulge in sugary beverages to feel a little better about it. She's championing "performance with a purpose" within the organization, which is focused on creating more wholesome products and increasing sustainability practices. As part of this effort, the company has launched The Pepsi Refresh Project. The socially driven campaign allows individuals and organizations to post their philanthropic ideas on refresheverything.com, where the general public votes for their favorite initiatives to be funded. To help support the project, which will give away more than $20 million this year, the company passed on airing a Super Bowl ad.
7) Ellen DeGeneres — Comedienne, actress, author, CoverGirl spokesmodel, American Idol judge, talk-show host and wife, Ellen DeGeneres does it all. Using her large media presence, she exposes audience members to different charities including Feeding America and the American Red Cross. DeGeneres conceals her wealth with ordinary clothes and a gracious attitude, influencing a legion of supporters through her television shows and brand sponsorships.
6) Taylor Swift — Unlike her flashy counterparts, such as Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, there's something genuine and down-to-earth about Swift that makes her stand out among the tween, teenage and young adult set. With her poised demeanor, saccharine pop-country crossover songs, humanitarian efforts for numerous charities, and penchant for affordable clothing—including her line of Walmart-sold sundresses that start at $14—this young superstar personifies the mindset of a new generation who want to feel good, look good and do good with (age-appropriate) style.
5) Warren Buffett — The world's third-wealthiest person, Buffett is famously known for both his mindful spending and philanthropy. America's foremost investor still owns the modest home bought in 1958, receives a salary of approximately $100,000 and rarely makes extravagant purchases. Most recently, Buffett auctioned off a lunch with himself that sold for $2.63 million, which will support Glide Foundation, a homeless organization based in San Francisco.
4) Oprah Winfrey — As proven time and again, the mere mention of a product by Oprah will make it a bestseller. Her personal integrity, philanthropic efforts and ability to connect with the masses will help her stay one of America's favorite trendsetters long after her talk show ends in 2011. Up next: Oprah will start the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), further exploring issues surrounding empowerment, spirit, human relationships and giving back.
3) Stephen F. Quinn — More than three-quarters of Americans shop at Walmart every year, so whether you're a fan or not, the retailer has influence. As Walmart's CMO, Quinn's leadership on sustainability efforts has a huge impact. He helped initiate strict environmental standards including high efficiency store designs, reusable bags, recycling programs and the installation of solar panels. In addition, Walmart is helping shoppers go green by introducing more energy-efficient products; locally grown produce; and the Sustainability Index, an initiative that, in the company's own words, is "helping to create a more transparent supply chain, driving product innovation and ultimately providing our customers with information they need to assess products' sustainability."
2) Mark Zuckerberg — Zuckerberg makes the list not because he is particularly mindful, but because the social media platform he created is making savvier shoppers out of all of us. With more than 400 million active users worldwide, Facebook has become an interactive consumer haven. With the simple update of a status feed, users can get product recommendations from the most trusted source: friends and family. Plus, the platform provides a voice to grassroots organizations that want to galvanize people around the world quickly and efficiently. Brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Disney are realizing the platform's potential by generating huge fan followings, making it a marketer's paradise. And with Zuckerberg's influence over Internet privacy policies, he is literally changing the way we shop.
1) Michelle Obama — With the grace of Jackie and the aspirations of Eleanor, Michelle has captivated Americans. When the First Lady donned J.Crew fashions at public appearances such as The Jay Leno Show, it spiked the retailer's clothing sales, website traffic and brand awareness. However, it is Obama's efforts to end childhood obesity with initiatives like "Let's Move" and the White House vegetable garden that are inspiring a nation. She is influencing (and, in some cases, incentivizing) politicians, business leaders, nonprofits, parents and the rest of us to think about what we consume.
(Photo by Alex Johnson.)