America’s ‘Mindful’ Consuming Celebrities

Aug 09, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

According to Andrew Benett, global CEO of Arnold Worldwide, ten
public figures embrace qualities of a new "mindful consumer" committed
to sustainability, giving and more-thoughtful consumption. The group ranges
from rapper Ludacris to Warren Buffett and Michelle Obama.

His new book, Consumed:
Rethinking Business in an Era of Mindful Spending
explains that despite glitz and abundance remaining prevalent in society (i.e.,
The Real Housewives, the Kardashians), many Americans are rejecting excess
and artificiality in favor of authenticity, substance and interconnectedness.

"Mindful consumers are taking a closer look at what we truly need and
adjusting our shopping behaviors accordingly," said Mr. Benett in a press

His list of the top-ten "mindful consumers" representatives

10) Ludacris: Through The Ludacris Foundation, the rapper has donated
$1.5 million to support youth-oriented, grassroots organizations and devoted
more than 5,000 hours of service. He also owns a hybrid and is installing solar
panels on his home.

9) Suze Orman: TV’s financial guru and best-selling author helped Americans
weather the recession by urging them to hold off buying stock as the market

8) Indra Nooyi: Pepsi’s CEO champions "performance with a purpose" within
the organization, with a focus on creating more wholesome products and increasing
sustainability practices. The Pepsi Refresh Project fosters philanthropic brainstorming
and will award more than $20 million this year to causes this year.

7) Ellen DeGeneres: The talk show host exposes her audience to different
charities, including Feeding America and the American Red Cross. She also "conceals
her wealth with ordinary clothes and a gracious attitude, influencing a legion
of supporters through her television shows and brand sponsorships."

6) Taylor Swift: The country singer’s poise, "saccharine pop-country
crossover songs," charitable efforts, and her affordable collection at Wal-Mart "personifies
the mindset of a new generation who want to feel good, look good and do good
with (age-appropriate) style."

5) Warren Buffett: Famously known for his mindful spending and philanthropy,
the billionaire continues to live a modest lifestyle. An auction for a lunch
with Mr. Buffett raised $2.63 million for Glide Foundation, a homeless organization.

4) Oprah Winfrey: Oprah’s "personal integrity, philanthropic efforts
and ability to connect with the masses will help her stay one of America’s
favorite trendsetters long after her talk show ends in 2011."

3) Stephen Quinn: Three-quarters of American’s shop at the discount
giant each year. But Wal-Mart’s CMO also spearheaded Wal-Mart’s extensive efforts
around sustainability and the retailer’s efforts to encourage shoppers go green.

2) Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook’s founder made the list "because the
social media platform he created is making savvier shoppers out of all of us," particularly
the ease at getting product recommendations from friends and family. Grassroots
organizations also found a medium to quickly galvanize people around the world.

1) Michelle Obama: Wearing J. Crew in public spiked the retailer’s
sales and awareness. But the stylish first lady’s efforts to end childhood
obesity and the White House vegetable garden "are inspiring a nation."

Discussion Questions: Do you generally agree with Andrew Benett’s view of
the evolving "mindful" consumer? If so, what do you think of Mr.
Benett’s choices? If not, which public figures best represent today’s consumer

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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11 Comments on "America’s ‘Mindful’ Consuming Celebrities"

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Warren Thayer
10 years 9 months ago

There have always been wealthy people making significant charitable donations, so I don’t see this list as anything more than anecdotal. You could also argue the names of the 10 people listed until the cows come home; they’re as good as any, I suppose, but many others are just as fitting. While I believe in the innate goodness of most people, I can’t say whether we’re seeing a fad or a trend. My gut instinct is that it’s a fad, that will rise and fall like always.

Bill Emerson
Bill Emerson
10 years 9 months ago

While it’s nice that these multi-gazillionaires are putting up solar panels and contributing to charities, my own sense is that Americans are consuming less because they have no choice.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
10 years 9 months ago

Michelle O plugs veggies from her garden.
Suze Orman tells us what’s a good bargain.
Taylor Swift makes me think well of Wal-Mart
Buffet says a modest lifestyle is smart.
Luacris is today’s grassroots guru.
Ellen D guides us to good places too.

“Mindful consumers” and “Mindful Spending”
Have a ring-a-ding that’s never ending.
I listen to all soothsayers on the track
But my wish is to get my own mind back.

Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
10 years 9 months ago

It’s ludicrous, all right. As I just wrote to a client who requested my analysis of the recent NY Times article, “Will It Make You Happy?” there is a difference between voluntary simplicity and involuntary penury!

These examples are proof only that it can be expensive to live the simple life!

Not all of the acquisition that goes on during the “good times” is wasteful spending; quite the contrary — for a lot of people that “stuff” is their first stuff, and their spending and consuming is sustaining a lot of production, trade, jobs, income, taxes, wealth accumulation, etc. General prosperity is a good thing, I believe!

One of my presentation titles is “We Shopped Till We Dropped, Now We’ll Save to the Grave,” but I conclude with the point of the wealth effect: once consumers start feeling they are again getting wealthier rather than poorer, they spend. On the other hand, if this is the new normal, it seems a little bit poorer for all of us.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
10 years 9 months ago

Somehow I do not see the standard of these wealthy people focus on “good” causes, as indicative of a “mindful consumer.” How are average consumers spending their money? Do average consumers look at the individuals on this list as role models for how to spend their money–except for Suze Orman who gives advice on how to spend money? What does the spending of these individuals have to do with the spending habits of average consumers?

Janet Dorenkott
Janet Dorenkott
10 years 9 months ago

A poor old widow who donates her last penny to charity gives much more than any of these people. For her, it is a true sacrifice, and she seeks no attention for having done it. This is true charity.

Charles P. Walsh
Charles P. Walsh
10 years 9 months ago
Andrew Benett’s view of the evolving “mindful” consumer is a hopeful albeit (in my view) naive view. At the end of World War I, the war to end all wars, much was written in the press about attitudes and politics and how this war had done so much to show how fruitless and tragic war was and how it would never happen again. We’ve seen attitudes “shift” during other times of where change was the outcome of times of stress within cultures and economies. Examples may be found in during and after such times within the US such as the “free love” and anti establishment movements of the late ’60s and early ’70s as a result of the anti war and counter conservatism movements. One may look back at the sudden growth of energy conservation following the gas shortages of the mid 1970s when consumer solar power, small cars and other products and attitudes grew wildly and were well represented on TV or in the news and attitudes of consumers…at that moment in time. Switch… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 9 months ago

I found the list of “mindful” consuming celebrities quite interesting; especially as I was choosing the person I thought best fit the model. My selection was Michelle Obama. Yet, in selecting Mrs. Obama from this list of ten; I could not help but think how different my feelings are about her as opposed to her husband when it comes to the subject at hand, “mindful” spending.

This is interesting; but it did not take a list of ten in a book to make us change our buying habits. The economic downturn, loss of jobs, loss of homes and income was certainly more of a stimulus than we should have needed. Hopefully, things will change for the better soon; and we will continue to remember the difficulties and keep our belts tight.

Ralph Jacobson
10 years 9 months ago

I can’t knock wealthy people for donating to their causes, and these actions can help stimulate and guide the rest of society. However, Americans are already far and away the most generous society on the planet. We have given more of our earnings to charities since the dawn of time, so this shift to austerity may add a new twist, but I think it’s a different issue than philanthropy. The new look of the rich wearing cheap clothes can be condescending in some cases, depending upon the celebrity in question.

Anna Larsson
Anna Larsson
10 years 9 months ago

Part of what we are seeing is a democratization of brands and consumption in general. Celebrities like Michelle Obama and Ellen Degeneres wearing clothes available to anyone who can make it to the mall give wealthier consumers “permission” to shop downmarket. The discount chains have been working this angle for years (think Martha Stewart at Kmart and Isaac Mizrahi at Target). On top of that, with globalization and the growth of Chinese manufacturing, “stuff” is getting cheaper while quality is generally reliable. With the marketing efforts of mass merchandisers, some conspicuous celebrity adopters and the now ubiquity of quality products, consumers of all income levels are comfortable choosing where they want to spend extra for the best and where “good enough is good enough.”

Devangshu Dutta
Devangshu Dutta
10 years 9 months ago

Ellen, Ludacris or Oprah have a communication reach that most marketers would kill for. Walmart pushing sustainable technologies in its supply chain could possibly achieve more than many governments around the world would hope to, because its powerful carrot of buying budgets is far stronger for many vendors in Asia, than the sticks of legislation.

Many of these are genuine, praiseworthy attempts.

However, much as I would like to believe that all celebrities and high profile businesses are evolving into mindful, careful consumers, that would be a gullible step too far. In the current economic climate, consuming too conspicuously is just “not done.” That may change as markets improve, jobs expand and incomes rise again.

Having said that, if the current fashionable rash of mindfulness raises the profile of concerns around over-consumption and waste, if it actually drives us towards more sustainable behavior then, well, the end justifies the means.


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