I think Dan Stanek is onto something with the concept of “conscious consumption” trumping “conspicuous consumption” these days:
What changes are you observing in consumer values?
What I am seeing is the pendulum swinging away from the conspicuous consumption of the 1980’s and 1990’s and toward conscious consumption. And this is having a profound impact on the retail industry. Overall, the current economic situation is accelerating trends toward frugality and placing importance on relationships and people instead of things. The importance on things to make someone happy is being questioned. I am seeing almost an anti-consumerism sentiment.
Conspicuous consumption does seem to be on the decline. I see fewer people flaunting brands that say, “I spent way too much on this just because I could.” This doesn’t necessarily translate into a drop in quality since brands like Lexus seem to cross over between conspicuous and conscious consumption.
I see conscious consumption in the choices friends are making with the cars they buy (higher mileage), home choices (access to shorter commutes and transit), clothes (less label driven), and food (learning more about where their food is coming from).
People are spending less on things that provide little long-term value (ostentatious brands & homes) yet more on things they can proudly justify (organic food, handmade products from Etsy, and energy saving products.
Of course, there are exceptions to this trend on Black Friday.