As individuals, we all have a core set of personal values. Our values are exposed to us all throughout life; some values are a product of how we were raised and others are an outcome of life experience. Either way, we all choose to embrace a specific set of beliefs that give meaning to our lives and help establish our priorities.
Our values sway us in many of the choices we make. Our values often dictate how we choose our friends and our mates to how we treat complete strangers. Even things like exercise, hobbies and location of residence are often a reflection of our values. After all, these are the principles that help define our character; if our values are a reflection of who we are, then naturally it makes sense that they come into play in so many facets of our lives. But “so many” is by no means comprehensive.
Thanks to the power of perception, our brains are wired to buy on value instead of values. Something about a great deal tends to trump a purchase decision rooted in the principles that help guide so many of our other behaviors. In fact, today there are hundreds of daily deal sites and even an IPO further corroborating our fixation with an irrefutable bargain. TV ads and every other highway billboard also concentrate on some sort of discount when you agree to consume their offering. “Every other” company choosing to advertise based on this model can’t be wrong. Or can they?
I recently wrote a piece on “Cash Mobs,” a trending phenomenon where participants pick a store, flock to it and agree to pay full-price to support a local business in need. For some time, the movement’s success perplexed me. If daily deal sites were going public, then why is a concept that embraces precisely the opposite philosophy enjoying such success? The answer: while pricing tends to dictate our short-term buying behavior, in the long-term our values become greater than value. Thanks to things like Cash Mobs, new corporate legal structures, rapidly evolving technology, trends in transparency and increasing consumer demand for a more conscious approach to capitalism, our purchasing behavior is becoming an exponentially increasing reflection of the principles that have molded our character and guided our mission in life: our values.
By no means am I suggesting that price should not be a purchase motivator. In today’s uncertain and volatile economic times, of course price is going to motivate what, where, when and why we consume. I’m simply suggesting that there are other important factors to consider and that if we neglect to do so, the negative implications overtime will likely outweigh the downside of spending a few extra bucks at the grocery store. A corporation’s labor and sourcing practices, supply chain policies and societal and environmental impact all have a ripple effect that can be either positive or negative. If we want to ensure outcomes that are beneficial in the long-term, we’ll need to continue to let our values help decide the companies we support and the products we consume.
Last I checked we weren’t choosing our friends or even our favorite pastimes based solely on the financial cost to acquire them. It’s because there’s more meaningful factors to consider. Perhaps our criterion for how we buy should look more like the values-based system we employ to make so many of life’s other big decisions.