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Reclaimism: Aspirational Consumers and Emerging Trends


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The rise of localism, the DIY movement and collaborative consumption business models are corollaries to the trend BBMG calls reclaimism, part of an emerging ecosystem of products, services and experiences that make it easier to live well and do good. Big brands are taking notice, too, recognizing the trend as a key signifier of Aspirational consumers, a fast-growing segment that refuses to compromise and wants to unite style and status with social purpose. This snapshot brings the trend to life by articulating its key themes, providing related brand examples, consumer stories and clear takeaways for today’s forward-thinking brands.

Published in: Business

Reclaimism: Aspirational Consumers and Emerging Trends

  1. 1. BBMG PRESENTS Reclaimism Aspirational Consumers and Emerging Trends JUNE 2014
  2. 2. 2 reclaimism [ree-kleym-ism] noun 1. the art and science of reselling, remaking and rediscovering used products. INTRODUCTION
  4. 4. Pioneering apparel brand Patagonia takes out a single full-page ad. “Do not buy our jackets,” it says. Repair them instead. Yerdle, a new startup based in San Francisco, urges members to “nab” items from each other, a more sophisticated take on the “freecycling” movement. And Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a white hip-hop duo from Seattle, win multiple Grammy awards for their hit single “Thrift Shop,” a playful critique of conspicuous consumption. 4 Once again used is cool. But where previous throw-backs to “what’s old is new again” focused mainly on vintage apparel and paid homage to certain styles (e.g., fifties leather bomber jacket, anyone?), today’s movement finds higher purpose in extending the lives of category-spanning products through repairing, reselling or finding other creative uses for them. The rise of localism, the Do-It-Yourself movement and collaborative consumption business models (think AirBnB, Uber, TaskRabbit) are corollaries to the trend we call reclaimism, part of an emerging ecosystem of products, services and experiences that make it easier to live well and do good. Big brands are taking notice, too, recognizing the trend as a key signifier of Aspirational consumers, a fast-growing segment that refuses to compromise and wants to unite style and status with social purpose. This snapshot—the first in a series from brand innovation firm BBMG— brings the trend to life by articulating its key themes, providing related brand examples, consumer stories and clear takeaways for today’s forward-thinking brands. INTRODUCTION
  5. 5. 5 INTRODUCTION “50% of Aspirational consumers are making, repairing or reusing products rather than buying new ones.” Rethinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability (2013)1 The insights are based on our primary research, both quantitative research conducted with GlobeScan in 20 markets and qualitative research conducted with The Collective, BBMG’s online community of 2,500+ Aspirational consumers. If you enjoy the report, by all means please share it. Sign-up to receive future trend snapshots at Or check for regular updates. This microsite houses key data points, expert commentary, press clips, videos and more about how Aspirationals are driving a profound shift toward sustainable consumption. The power of reclaimism is not to be underestimated. The most sustainable product, after all, is one that already exists.
  6. 6. Trend Drivers. Why are we seeing such a big uptick around reclaimism? The following pages explore five key drivers of the trend. All are unfolding against a backdrop of social change influenced by increasing globalization, protracted economic recession, disruptive new technologies and generational shifts bringing new perspectives on individual and corporate responsibility.
  7. 7. 7 No wonder consumers feel good about buying used— they’re saving money. And though it’s often cheaper to purchase used over new, buying second-hand now carries a certain caché: you’re doing your part, keeping items from landfills, saving resources, conscious about the implications of your consumption, proud to be part of a larger movement interested in sharing, wasting less and enjoying more of what matters in life. The larger economic climate is only spurring the trend. “Resale shops are thriving, popping up across the country,” says Adele Meyer, executive director of the Association of Resale Professionals, which tracked a 7% increase in the number of resale shops within the last year.2 “The thrift store is now cooler than the mall,” she says. About 20 percent of consumers now shop in thrift stores, compared to 14 percent in 2008. An e-commerce startup like Rent the Runway—whose membership in its first four years went from zero to 3.5 million—allows members to rent used haute couture 1. Save money. Do good. looks with a few clicks of a computer mouse. Jennifer Fleiss, Rent the Runway’s co-founder, says that the company’s core demographic includes Millennial women who generally wouldn’t be able to buy high-end designer dresses. Side benefit: renting luxury goods becomes a pathway to empowerment for many. “We see young women putting on these dresses and feeling empowered, twirling in the mirror,” says Fleiss. “That’s amazingly gratifying.” 3 TREND DRIVERS
  8. 8. 8 TREND DRIVERS “Most people share because of convenience and price, not an overwhelming desire to live sustainably.” Ariel Schwartz, FastCo.Exist Angie, 42, Minnesota, loves buying used, “new-to-me” clothing for many reasons. “I often get my clothes from either a clothing swap or second-hand store. The clothes are in great condition. I save tons of money. I discover fun things that I might not otherwise try, and I keep more things from being manufactured.”
  9. 9. 9 One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Trite but true. Why give it away when you can make a few cents on the dollar? Reselling is big business and part of the reclaimism narrative. Craigslist, for example, manages 1.5 million new daily postings and over 40 million unique visitors per month—on the top ten list of most visited websites. Although revenues have never been released by Craigslist itself, estimates hover around $300 million annually.4 Expected to process $300 billion worth of transactions a year by 2015, eBay is the biggest sustainable marketplace in the world.5 Niche players are arriving in droves, of course. Gazelle, the dominant marketplace for second-hand electronics has experienced exponential growth and is on track to hit $100 million in revenue.6 The new app Decluttr offers to buy any and all used CDs and DVDs. Both business models take advantage of real after-markets and let consumers find a home for outdated computers, televisions, cell phones and long-forgotten 2. Make money. Trash is cash. video games—at a profit. Tradesy makes it easy to buy and sell fashion online. “We have a section on the site for wedding attire,” says Tracy DiNunzio, founder of Tradesy. “We have seen three brides wear the same dress. The first bought a Vera Wang wedding dress for $8,000 and then sold it on Tradesy for $3,000. The second wore it and resold it for $3,000. So the bride in the middle of that trade wore her $8,000 Vera Wang wedding dress for free.” “Spring cleaning has never been more profitable.” Thomas Freidman, New York Times TREND DRIVERS
  10. 10. 10 Platforms like Tradesy remove the friction and risk from multiparty transactions. Consumers feel empowered to sell their space, their belongings and their time in ways that weren’t previously possible. Durable goods cease to be ‘belongings’ but objects to enjoy and pass along, either by selling or giving them away. This has the added benefit of promoting better care: you’ll get more money if it’s in great shape. And it cuts down on clutter, the hassle of accumulating more stuff than you need. In sum, it’s about access to good stuff rather than the stuff itself. “We’re moving from a world where we’re organized around ownership to one organized around access to assets.” Lisa Gansky, author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing Suzanne transforms an old desk. “I got this old writing desk from a thrift store and gave it a few coats of paint. Now, I use it every Suzanne, 39, day in my home office.” South Carolina TREND DRIVERS
  11. 11. 11 The key insight behind BBMG’s recent Earth Month campaign for eBay Green: the most sustainable product is one that’s already been made. Keep things from landfills and cut the need for new ones by “reloving” them. Chris prides herself on her creative repurposing of an old cigarette case. “Smoking is horribly out of fashion these days, so this cigarette case needed a new life. The case was my mom’s in the 60s and 70s, but today I use it as a wallet. It holds money and credit cards perfectly as it is the right shape and size. As an added bonus the case is made of metal and won’t allow anyone to read your credit card strip.” TREND DRIVERS Chris, 35, West Virginia
  12. 12. 12 TREND DRIVERS 3. To reclaim is to remake. The joy of second lives. Shabby chic. Mod-podge. Rough luxury. A glue gun, can of paint and a little imagination can go a long way. Tin cans become patio lanterns. An old ladder becomes a display shelving unit. Leftover fabric refreshes a seat cushion, or makes a new pillow. The options are endless and practical, craft-savvy celebrities like Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart have built merchandising empires tapping the world’s penchant for imaginative remaking. Perhaps no marketplace has done more for our inner craftiness than Etsy, “home of the handmade.” Now boasting more than a million sellers of goods, generating $1.4 billion in sales a year, Etsy thrives on reclaimism. Pinterest, too, with its visual emphasis, is popular for sharing tips and tricks. For many consumers, the joy of repurposing comes from it being a creative exercise. It affirms the “curatorial eye,” the ability to see the potential in an old or discarded object. It invites a gratifying transformation. Suddenly—thanks to a few coats of paint—this has become that. It can carry a heritage note: this thing has been in the family for years…and now it’s relevant again. It fosters a narrative of desire: this was unwanted but now I want it, or at least somebody does! Finally, as underscored by the real stories below, it carries the subtext of utility: we recognize that this thing can be used again, if not for its stated purpose then some new purpose we assign it. Reclaiming and remaking is empowering on all fronts. Amy turns old soup cans into an herb garden. “Saw this on Pinterest and totally love it. Recycling soup cans and making them into beautiful gardening supplies. Can’t wait to try it this spring when it’s time to plant the seeds.” Amy, 39, California
  13. 13. 13 4. What’s mine is yours. The community of nabbing. Reused Garden Gate “A few years ago, we bought a used garden gate and arbor from an older lady no longer wanting it. My husband put it in our front garden (where I take the boys to play and learn about gardening), where a chocolate vine now climbs up the side of the arbor and fills the top. He built a different gate entrance to accompany it - so we did not need the doors that came with the gate. We hinged them, cleaned them, and restained them. Now, I use them to display my photography at farmers markets and similar shows. It’s a great way to reuse something that someone else might have tossed out!” Sarah, 35, Virginia TREND DRIVERS First there was Freecycling. Then Freegle, the British spin-off. Craigslist added free listings, of course. Then a raft of startups focused on helping us share or exchange goods, often free, sometimes at a price: Flooting. FreelyWheely. ReUseIt. Full Circle. SnapGoods. NeighborGoods. WhatsMineIsYours. Big Wardrobe. Now Yerdle has entered the fray. Yerdle, a trading platform, reinvents the barter system where you can trade your goods for points, then “buy” other used goods with what you’ve earned. While the platform is designed as one to share among friends, “one of the bonuses is meeting like-minded people nearby that you might not otherwise meet,” notes Kelly McCartney of Shareable. Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club presi-dent and yerdle’s founder, says the platform came from an urgent need to shift the status quo and “use software, technology and good old-fashioned community organizing to make sharing ubiquitous” and lower the environmen-tal impact of our purchases.7 Within six months of the platform’s launch, 17,000 members could log on to nab 350 free items nearby.8 Nabbing has rules. It comes with a code of conduct. You should give if you get. It comes with a sense of place: we’re a community of like-minded, like-hearted individuals engaging in this exchange of stuff. Usually the sites are locally based and volunteer run. Both donor and recipient are intended to benefit. Value exchange is inherent in the design of the freecycling movement and serves as an important undercurrent to reclaimism.
  14. 14. 14 “We need to radically change the way we acquire the things we want.” Adam Werbach, founder of yerdle Danielle nabbed a free, broken-down loveseat on Craigslist and turned it into something that reflects her personal style. “The owner described this love seat as having a ‘bit of wear’, which is Craigslist free-speak for ‘absolutely trashed.’ But I knew from looking at the photo that it had good bones and would be like new with updated upholstery. A month later, after approximately a billion staples and lots of pulling and stretching, the loveseat was completely transformed into my new favorite piece of furniture! I chose a gray and white trellis pattern for a fun print.” TREND DRIVERS Danielle, 25, Illinois
  15. 15. 15 We’d like our clothes back now, thanks very much. Big brands have started moving to meet the growing consumer desire for sharing and repurposing. It makes sense. The designers, makers and distributors have roles to play in promoting reclaimism but also stand to gain loyalty and reputation by adopting a proactive stance. In 2013 Eileen Fisher released a cheeky Earth Month campaign that launched their “Green Eileen” Collection Program. It encouraged shoppers to return gently worn apparel in exchange for a tax receipt and $5 Recycling Rewards coupon, valid at any Eileen Fisher store or online. The brand also launched a new store concept under the “Green Eileen” umbrella to sell the gently worn items consumers returned at four locations nation-wide. This move is environmentally-and socially-impactful: the proceeds from any sales go toward funding one of a slew of non-profit causes, from the National Women’s History Museum to Planned Parenthood. To date, the program has collected 203,000 garments and raised more than $450,000 in its first two years.9 Through its Common Threads Partnership, Patagonia helps consumers find new homes for the Patagonia products they no longer use. Patagonia buys back used items and consumers can shop returned products in stores and on eBay. With its “Worn Wear” blog, Patagonia shares consumers’ stories of travel, adventure and the resilient clothing that makes it all possible. As of last year, 60,000 consumers have taken the Common Threads Pledge, agreeing to buy only what they need, repair what breaks and share what they don’t need. Vickie Achee, Patagonia’s head of retail marketing, says “Our customers love knowing they can find their gear a second home while earning credit toward new or used products for themselves, all while doing their part to reuse, recycle and keep Patagonia gear out of the landfill.”10 Sprint has a buyback program, too, one of the first of its kind— consumers trade in their old wireless devices and receive up to $300 in account credit. As of March 2014, Sprint Buyback and the brand’s other wireless device recycling initiatives have collected more than 50 million items. TREND DRIVERS 5. Take me back. Branding the good loop.
  16. 16. 16 TREND DRIVERS Darren Beck, director of Sprint’s environmental initiatives, noted that the “buyback program can help customers offset some of the cost of their next device and helps Sprint avoid substantial operating costs by reusing most of the devices we collect. It also helps our communities, reducing electronics in landfills and reducing the resources, energy and emissions required to produce even more new devices.”11 In 2013, Sprint broke the Guinness World Record for the “most cell phones recycled in one week” with 103,582 phones recycled, more than twice the previous record.12 Lululemon’s recent missteps showed the folly of trying to fight reclaimism. Following a massive recall and offensive comments referencing plus-size consumers, the company made a puzzling but concerted effort to stop consumer attempts at creating a second-hand market for Lululemon apparel and accessories, going so far as to ban some customers from the brand’s e-commerce site and trying to dissuade consumers from reselling merchandise on eBay. Predictable backlash and bad PR followed with the company finally, reluctantly, issuing an apology. Many experts note, however, that the brand’s ethos—promoting mindfulness—has been called into question.13
  17. 17. Implications. In the end, reclaimism is sure to rise in frequency and import, spurred by sustainable brand innovation and consumers’ increasing desire to do good, save money, make money, have fun, be creative and support local communities and brand partners that get it.
  18. 18. 18 IMPLICATIONS How might you leverage this trend to drive growth, loyalty and deeper consumer engagement? Here are a few thought-starters and implications given the dynamics at work: Embed it. Authenticity is key. Host a visioning workshop to determine how reclaimism can strategically and authentically fit into your ethos or mission—not become “tacked on” to an existing marketing strategy. Make it easy. Pre-paid postage. Bins in stores. Partnerships with local programs or take-back facilities. How can you take friction out of the process and ensure participation that closes the loop? Do whatever it takes to make it easy. Otherwise it’s just lip service and not part of a long-term strategy. Make it rewarding. Incentivize participation through a mix of benefits. Discounts on future purchases. Points that can be redeemed for goods/services from your brand or from affinity brand partners. Badges that recognize frequency, volume or level of engagement with the program. Happy reclaiming.
  19. 19. 19 1. BBMG, GlobeScan & SustainAbility. (2012, November 12). Rethinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability. 2. Tully, J. (2012, July 12). Recession has many looking thrift store chic. USA TODAY 3. Galbraith, S. (2013, December 3). The Secret Behind Rent the Runway’s Success. Forbes. 4. Kidd, G. (2011, June 6). White Paper: Craigslist: By the Numbers. 3Taps. 5. Friedman, T. (2013, December 21). How to Monetize Your Closet. The New York Times. 6. Kirsner, S. (2013, April 12). Electronics reseller Gazelle on track to hit $100 million in revenue for 2013. 7. McCartney, K., & Gorenflo, N. (2012, November 23). AdamWerbach Launches yerdle on Black Friday with 10,000 Free Items. Shareable. 8. Aster, N. (2013, June 15). Video Interview: Adam Werbach, yerdle’s 6 Month Progress Report. Triple Pundit RSS. 9. Green Eileen Store Opens in Yonkers. (2011, December 1). Westchester Putnam NY Natural Awakenings. 10. Patagonia’s Common Threads Worn Wear™ Program Comes to Denver. Transworld Business RSS. 11. Sprint. (2014, March 14). As Wireless Carriers Race to Reclaim Phones, Sprint Phone Trade-in Program Remains No. 1. 12. Sprint. (2013, September 4). Sprint Breaks GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® Record for the Most Cell Phones Recycled in One Week. 13. Shayon, S. (2014, February 20). Lululemon Tried to Ban Customers from Reselling Clothes, Because That’s Going to Go Over Well. Brand Channel. END NOTES
  20. 20. This snapshot is designed to inspire dialogue about the emerging trend of reclaimism, as evidenced by the attitudes, behaviors and values of Aspirational consumers, a global consumer segment that cares about uniting style, status and sustainability. For the latest data points, trends and best practices, visit Executive Creative Director: Mitch Baranowski Associate Creative Director: Casey Coyle Designer: Maddie Young Strategist: Suzanna Schumacher Associate Editor: Carola Beeney