Consumer Awareness and the 40-Hour Workweek

A friend of mine recently sent me this interesting read on the 40-hour workweek.

The article came up during our conversation as we were catching up with each other`s lives over lunch after barely speaking for the past few years. Naturally, we caught up on the usual topics like careers, relationships, and future plans. From sharing how her life transpired over the last four years, it seemed she was relatively fulfilled with all the things she had the great opportunity to experience. But what stood out the most, as is pretty common with young people, was all the travelling she had done. And as a result, she encouraged me to pursue a similar experience especially because of the Western lifestyle described in the article.

It’s an interesting read for me not just because of my desire to explore the world as encouraged by my friend, but also because of my career path as a marketer, the very profession that perpetuates consumer spending. The thing is – I don’t think that this “culture of unnecessaries” as described in the article is necessarily a bad thing. More importantly, I think this simply supports the idea that knowledge is power. There’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging in material goods, paying for convenience and gratification, and ultimately substituting our scarce time with money and spending – it’s a practical reality and frankly, as the author points out, our economy runs on it. But I think knowing that this is the reality can help us achieve a more healthy, balanced lifestyle that includes both cost-effective yet wholesome activities as well as the more financially costly guilty pleasures.

The topic reminds me of the various stories and findings discussed in a book that I’m currently reading called Why We Buy by Paco Underhill. A classic must-read for marketers, Why We Buy explores the science of consumer shopping behaviour and discusses various tactics that retailers can use to improve sales. As both a marketer and a consumer, I have this neat dual role of being sparked by the interesting strategies presented while understanding that I can also “fall” for said strategies.

But once again, none of these strategies are bad per se. As Martin Lindstrom points out in discussing the ethics of neuromarketing in his bestseller Buyology (another great read), a hammer can be used to bludgeon someone over the head, but when put in the right hands and used for the right purposes, it can be a useful and productive tool. My thoughts exactly on the nature of the 40-hour workweek lifestyle and the related marketing strategies employed by companies that support our economy. Our awareness of the strategies protects us from their misuse and abuse, but also informs us of their potential positive use.

So while I don’t think our 40-hour workweek culture will change, I do think we can be armed with sufficient information to spend in moderation while also pursuing gratification through more wholesome activities.

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