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Self Interest Not Social Conscience Sells Fairtrade

Originally Published 06 March 2003

New research by Dr Caroline Wright from the University of Warwick reveals some fairtrade organisations are employing advertising tactics similar to those used by Nike and L'Oreal, and that shoppers are enticed to buy Fair Trade goods 'Because I'm worth it', rather than by appealing to ethics.

Slogans such as "Do yourself a favour: discover fresh coffees' from Cafédirect's 1999-2002 advertising campaign suggest the first responsibility of ad readers is to themselves. In her paper Consuming Lives, Consuming Landscapes Dr Caroline Wright argues that 'Do yourself a favour' mimics the infamous L'Oreal campaign by-line 'Because I'm worth it.- Cafédirect's campaign also includes short, snappy, minimalist phrases such as 'Think it' and 'Drink it', echoing Nike's by-line 'Just do It'.

Fairtrade Fortnight runs from 3-16 March 2003, and promotes goods that give disadvantaged producers a fair price for their produce. However, the dominant message to shoppers is that fairtrade purchases will be good for them, as well as good for third world producers. As a potential consumer I am 'sold' the idea of fairtrade as being of direct benefit to myself: it makes for a premium quality coffee that I can reward myself with.

From the late 1960s, when the term 'trade not aid' was coined, a small, niche market, grew up around fairly traded goods. A more professional approach to marketing is now used, and fairtrade is promoted by appealing to shoppers' self-interest. According to Dr Caroline Wright, it's a strategy that is definitely working. Sales of fairtrade foods have more than doubled over the past three years and they are starting to compete with major brands.

Dr Caroline Wright added: 'The Fair trade market is growing in the UK, but much progress is still to be made. There is still a huge gap between interest in and awareness of the issues and changes in purchasing patterns. Although 30% of people say they're concerned with ethical consumption, this translates into only 1-3% regularly buying fair trade."
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For more information contact: Jenny Murray, Assistant Press Officer, University of Warwick, Tel: 02476 574 255 Mobile: 07876 217740

Editor's notes:
Consuming Lives, Consuming Landscapes: Interpreting Advertisements for Cafedirect Coffees, will be presented in the Consumption and Waste Stream of the BSA Annual Conference, 11-13 April 2003.

The Ethical Purchasing Index developed by the New Economics Foundation and the Co-operative Bank shows that ethical purchases have grown 15% from 1999.
Cafédirect is now the sixth biggest coffee brand in the UK and has plans to grow across the whole hot drinks market. Sales of Cafédirect's tea grew by 34% in 2002 and a new drinking chocolate, Cocodirect, has just been launched.