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The Selfish Consumer: Everyone Wins?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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America is made up of a large amount of consumers who operate on an age-old economic theory — the notion that the business world (and therefore, society) can thrive when we all pursue our own self-interest.

Yes; that the best thing we can do for each other is to satisfy our own needs and wants as best as we can.

For the most part, we've been okay with that sentiment.

But there is more to that theory. Some scientists are now looking at how selfishness could affect public goods; that in "social dilemmas," the group can suffer if everyone goes for the selfish route, rather than letting others work together and have a few go the selfish route. Those who go on the selfish route for public goods are, in economic circles, called free-riders.

Why is this important in marketing?

As we have said time and time again, advertising is the language of business economics; the study of how businesses interact with other parties in certain environments, with limited resources. Therefore, we must understand how business works in order to effectively speak on behalf of the business.

At least, for those engaging in marketing strategy.

We all know that the consumer is selfish. The "what's in it for me?" is inherently self-centered.

But as more advertisers are turning to "goodvertising," advocating for goods and services that serve the greater good, perhaps we need to direct our attention to how the consumer mass reacts to a shift of thought. What if we determine that a free-rider problem exists in our environment? Can advertising be used to influence and, hopefully, change behavior?

Interesting things to think about.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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