VT Cast #16: Conscious Employees, Conscious Consumers & VolunTourism
What are some of the characteristics of theses audiences and what does it mean to be "conscious" or "awakening"? Is VolunTourism a product or service they are seeking? And how are conscious employees and conscious consumers having an impact on VolunTourism? Guests discuss these topics and more in this session.
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Mitch Baranowski, Founding Partner of BBMG [Bio]
[On Mitch's personal background and why he has an interest in VolunTourism... ]
|Mitch Baranowski, Founding Partner, BBMG
"Well, one really great thing for me in reflecting on speaking with you this morning, you may not know this from the short bio that's on our web site, but I actually started my career in VolunTourism. I was trained as a journalist in Austin, Texas, and worked for the NPR affiliate, in Austin, covering statewide politics and other cultural matters. But then I got a scholarship during my graduate studies in international communications to go to the European Commission.
And following that, I traveled Western Europe setting up service projects in destinations across, say, twelve or thirteen countries; I did that for about a year and a half. And it was really remarkable; I was sort of the advance marketing & communications person on the ground for a lot of college kids for this cultural exchange program. And they would blow into town, and we would do a service project, and then do the cultural and educational highlights of that destination.
So it was really remarkable, sort of, on-the-ground exposure to that intersection and what it means to serve. Whether it's helping the local Red Cross chapter build a playground for Serbian refugees or whether it's showing up at a facility to educate children, or older adults, for that matter, about how to use the internet."
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[On the five core values that are motivating conscious consumers...]
"All of these respondents, or participants, met criteria that met our notions based upon our experience in previous research about what a conscious consumer is and we learned a lot from these direct observations. We learned that five core values are really shaping who they are and what they buy. One of those is health and safety, which we talked about. Another is honesty. A third is convenience - - that we are all facing increasing constraints on our time and our budgets and so we are very practical when it comes to purchasing things, especially travel. We want to make sure that it is going to meet our needs, that it's not going to be a hassle. We can't sacrifice, even as we look at positioning Voluntourism, we can't sacrifice quality, or convenience, or price even for that matter.
What you'll find, typically, as you go deeper into this and you start to do segmentation analysis of the conscious consumer marketplace, what you typically find is that those who are, say, most 'awakened' or 'enlightened,' depending on which term you want to use, will go further and pay more of a premium and be willing to be more inconvenienced IF the product or service really matches their values. But most of the market is not there; most of the market is aspiring to be there, or really they're much more practical and pragmatic, so access matters a lot more. For example, is it a non-stop flight; how many connections do I need to make to get to this destination; they may be less willing to make certain luxury trade-offs - - we could have a whole conversation about eco-luxury and what that means.
[So that convenience was the third value that you discovered in your research process.]
The fourth is one that you (David) have already touched on, which is relationships - - the person, or persons, or people behind products and services - - who made it? where does it come from? 'am I getting anything back from this transaction? We heard a lot of consumers talk extensively, for example, about the Farmer's Market, or going to their local cafe over Starbuck's - because they have a personal relationship with the people behind the counter - they know them, they want to support them, they love buying local. One of the core themes here throughout all of our - - both this ethnographic research and our national study - - local matters. Local matters a great deal; it's rising in importance, which is very, very key, I would think, for Voluntourism as it goes forward.
And then, perhaps, most important for Voluntourism is the fifth value driving conscious consumers, which happens to be 'doing good.' These consumers are really concerned about the world; they want to do their part to make it a better place; they want to dedicate time to giving back. Whether it's doing simple steps like recycling or buying organic cotton garments or going to a destination and dedicating time, to service.
The important thing, though, to keep in mind when it comes to that aspect - yes, for most, it's purely altruistic - yet, there is increasingly a segment of this marketplace where it's a self-centered consciousness. By that we mean two things: 1) Generally the issues that these consumers care most about are those that affect them most directly, i.e. air quality, water quality, and 2) There's a bit of status that comes with being - - 'green' - - these days. For some, that Prius (Toyota Hybrid), says a lot about who they are and how they want to be perceived in the world. So, it's really important to keep that dynamic in mind." Mitch Baranowski
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Mitch Baranowski, Founding Partner, BBMG
A seasoned writer, producer and marketing communications consultant, Mitch Baranowski co-founded BBMG in January 2003 to help clients reach and inspire the conscious consumer. He has overall responsibility for the branding firm’s creative direction and its New York and San Francisco operations.
One of the firm’s first assignments was working with noted author Frances Mayes to create and launch the Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona, Italy.
Prior to BBMG, Mitch directed public affairs programs at both Edelman and Burson-Marsteller (clients included Orbitz, Bombardier Aerospace and China Eastern Airlines).
Earlier in his career, Mitch was a director of corporate communications for AMR/American Airlines.
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