Posts Tagged ‘jeans’

Justifying your jeans

March 16, 2009

I am not an expert in the area of consumer behaviour, but occasionally I stumble across a paper with currency.  

A recent paper Harvard Business School addressed quite directly a question I asked back in October: how do consumers reconcile information about the likely poor working conditions under which their jeans are produced?

jeansThe paper, snappily titled “Sweatshop Labor is Wrong Unless the Jeans are Cute: Motivated Moral Disengagement“, by Neeru Paharia and Rohit Deshpandé, argues quite convincingly that consumers shift their moral compasses considerably in the face of desire. 

Put simply, we are willing to shift our views on the merits (or acceptability) of sweatshops if we desire an item sufficiently. This shift may include citing economic (or other) justifications for such work.

The implications of such work vary depending on the audience I guess.  Campaigners against such working conditions need to make their arguments more sticky, while marketers of such products can perhaps maintain their strategies of pretending the issues isn’t there (or even offering more justifications for such labour usage).

It ain’t pretty, but it is the real world!!

Do jeans make you blue?

October 13, 2008

The manufacturing processes behind common consumer products are not often discussed in the media. Clothing is one exception, as there are sporadic debates and exposés about the likely sweatshop roots of popular brands. This story from the Saturday Age looks at the world of jeans manufacturing. It claims to expose a variety of production processes which may be harmful to the folks making the jeans (and the components thereof) and to the environment where the manufacturing occurs (often developing countries).

Multinationals have to be very careful about the perceptions of the impact of their products, in terms of both workers’ rights/experiences, and also the environment. This article suggests that the jeans being sold in Australian vary considerably in terms of the damage they have done before we buy them.

It is far from a simple cheap labour/low cost strategy story either, as the firms offering these products are often engaged in these practices so as to achieve differentiation in the highly competitive fashion market. You might even argue that they are highly innovative and adventurous firms. Also, the firms whose brands appear on the jeans are typically not directly involved in the production process themselves. They might, therefore, claim little/no awareness of, or responsibilty for, any damage done.

This not an issue that will go away. It remains to be seen whether consumer behaviour is significantly altered by such revelations, and whether firms can create any genuine advantage from taking a more socially responsible position by altering manufacturing practices.