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Ethical consumerism concepts

Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes—and even strategy.

Thomas Edison created the electric lightbulb and then wrapped an entire industry around it. The lightbulb is most often thought of as his signature invention, but Edison understood that the bulb was little more than a parlor trick without a system of electric power generation and transmission to make it truly useful. So he created that, too.

Making conscientious consumerism sexy

In 2007 and 2008, Oxfam partnered with IDEO to increase awareness of ethical consumption as a means of alleviating social and environmental problems. To better understand consumer behaviors, IDEO and Oxfam sought opinions from shoppers, finding that most are loyal to trusted brands, that aesthetics trump virtue, and that consumers ideally want brands to act ethically. The resulting design principles reinforced sexiness over sacrifice and included such concepts as a guerrilla marketing campaign and an environmental impact evaluation program.

With thousands of partners in more than 70 countries, Oxfam GB seeks to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. As one of the world's leading NGOs, Oxfam has campaigns, development work, and emergency response capabilities spanning such issues as fair trade, climate change, humanitarian and disaster relief, and long-term poverty reduction, among others. Oxfam partnered with IDEO in 2007 and 2008 to increase awareness of ethical consumption as a means of alleviating social and environmental problems.

Oxfam turned to IDEO's human-centered approach to better understand genuine consumer behaviors -- in all of their ambiguities, uncertainties, and contradictions -- in order to connect with people. With a greater understanding of shoppers' motivations, Oxfam hoped to evolve perceptions of ethical consumption from a place of guilt and apathy to one that encourages informed and emboldened action.

Seeking the opinions and behaviors of consumers at every point on the spectrumfrom bargain lovers to High Street devotees -- IDEO and Oxfam aimed to understand what motivates purchasing and whether ethical concerns were a part of the equation. Insights from consumers and retailers revealed that individuals tend to trust the brands they love, that aesthetics outsell virtue, and that, while consumers may want to influence brands to act ethically, they believe they lack the power to do so. By engaging these positive desires and ambitions, rather than imposing guilt through negative messaging, a series of concepts were born and prototyped that reinforce sexiness over sacrifice.

Based on design principles such as "Make it a Conversation," IDEO and Oxfam's concepts spanned product, service, and communications. Concepts ranged from guerrilla marketing campaigns passionately calling for more thoughtful consumerism, to a card that allows shoppers to monitor their purchase-induced impact on the environment. The concepts and design principles they represent will inform Oxfam's approach to future innovation challenges, most notably an upcoming campaign around climate change, and encourage consumers to take action, consume less, and ultimately, consume better.

http://www.ideo.com/work/

Join Tim Brown's ongoing discussion at his blog Design Thinking.
 

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