「為了支持日本東北的經濟，有許多原本不喝清酒的人現在也開始嘗試清酒，並逐漸感受到清酒的美好滋味。」Giichiro Yaegashi遞給我一杯溢滿香氣的龍泉八重櫻時，緩緩說道。－日本時代雜誌（The Japan Times）
距離日本東北發生的大地震已經一年了，當時有許多人擔憂著地震、海嘯、和福島核災將重創當地的經濟，然而，在過去一年日本東北的清酒銷售量卻微幅提升，有許多人為了支持當地經濟而去購買清酒。我自己也認識許多這樣的人（包括我父親在內），都是為了援助東北而購買清酒，而讓我難忘的是，我的父親似乎比以前更享受清酒的滋味了。這就是「社會性與故事性消費（social & story consumption）」其中一個明顯的實例。當產品與社會價值（social value）或有意義的故事連結在一起時，消費者往往能從中感受到更高的附加價值。就像我的父親得以更享受東北的清酒，除了清酒本身的滋味以外，也是因為他購買清酒的背後有著支持東北經濟的社會價值。
Social & Story Consumption
"Even people who were not sake drinkers before want to drink sake to support Tohoku, and they are gradually realizing how good the sake is," Giichiro Yaegashi tells me, as he hands me a fragrant cup of Ryusen Yaezakura Junmai Daiginjo to sample.” (The Japan Times)
It has passed one year since the catastrophic earthquake suffered Tohoku region in Japan. While many people had feared that the combined effects of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear turmoil in Fukushima would bring disastrous consequences to the industries in Tohoku region. However, the sales for the sake industry in Tohoku increased slightly in the past one year. Many people bought sake from Tohoku to support the producers. I personally know a lot of people, including my dad, who purchased Tohoku sake after the earthquake. The memorable thing about it for me is that when my dad drank the Tohoku sake, he seemed to enjoy it much more than usual. This is one clear example of “social & story consumption” I write about in this entry. Consumers can obtain more values when social value or meaningful story is attached to product. My dad could enjoy the Tohoku sake that much because he enjoyed the social value to support Tohoku, in addition to the taste.
We are now experiencing a significant consumption shift. To explain this consumption shift, I would like to introduce a famous chart below called “the Hierarchy of Needs” made by Abraham Maslow. This pyramid chart shows the level of human needs, suggesting that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to higher needs.
This theory can be perfectly applied to explain the consumption shift. Let’s assume that you want to buy a hand-bag.
Case 1: To fulfill Physiological and Safety need
You would acquire the cheapest bag which has no design but very practical in order to fulfill your minimum need to survive. You would purchase this kind of handbag at a local market.
Case 2: Love / belonging need
To fulfill this need, you would purchase a hand-bag which is popular in a community that you want to belong to. For example, if you want to be a part of outdoor lover community, you would buy a bag of Patagonia.
Case 3: Esteem need
This is the need which luxury brands try to fulfill. You would buy a bag of LOUISVUITTON or GUCCI to show your economic affluence.
Case 4: Self-actualization need
Finally, you reach the need which locates at the top of the pyramid, self-actualization. This is the need what those who bought Tohoku sake try to fulfill. Helping Tohoku people through buying their products can be a way of self-actualization.
Since the need for self-actualization locates at the top of pyramid, those who acquire this need are not many in most countries. The size and percentage of this segment depends on the maturity of its consumption culture. In Japan, as the example of Tohoku sake shows, more and more people start acquiring the need of self-actualization. Many consumers are now looking for a product which can provide them a way to achieve their self-actualization need. And Motherhouse tries to fulfill the need through attaching social value and story to its products.
Motherhouse believes that fashion consumption can be a way to change the society for the better, considering its products as a mean to do good for developing countries. Motherhouse produces all the products at its own factory in Bangladesh and uses local materials, so buying its products results in providing employments to local workers in Bangladesh. Also, Motherhouse shares all the processes of production with its customers, so customers can enjoy not only enjoy a product itself but also stories of producers and designer behind the product. Motherhouse even regularly invites customers to its factory to directly communicate with producers.
This approach to provide social value and story attached to product works well in Japan market so far, and Motherhouse is now challenging to do the same in Taiwan market. This spend shift already began in Taiwan. This is why Motherhouse can open its own shop at Zhongxiao SOGO, one of the top department stores in Taipei. I am very confident that Taiwanese consumers would accept this new consumption style because this is an instinctive need of human beings.
I conclude this entry with a quote from a person who is usually misunderstood as a cold-blood market fundamentalist. Actually, his most famous book, the Wealth of Nations, is merely a side reader of the book I quote below.
“Sympathy... does not arise so much from the view of the passion, as from that of the situation.... We sometimes feel for another, a passion of which he himself seems to be altogether incapable; because, when we put ourselves in his case, that passion arises in our breast from the imagination, though it does not in his from the reality.” — Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
So our company tries to induce people's sympathy by having them understand the background situation / context where our products are made. Through advancing story consumption, we hope to align people's purchasing power with their own personal values, including sympathy, in a more sustainable way.