Consumerism can be stated as an attitude, defining consumers as the king who will be asking today for better, more, and much cheaper things than what they got yesterday, whereas producers will be standing on their toes to serve customers’ needs as they evolve. Vigorous branding, advertising, event sponsorship, sweepstakes, lying, cheating(!) as well as honest offers will be placed in the market and finally the producers’ fates will be decided by consumers.
Patriotism, on the other hand, means the love for one’s country, thereby holding the country’s greater interest before one’s own. Patriotism can be broadly viewed as a type of ethnocentrism (it refers to consumers’ preferences being shaped by their country of origin, race, color, religion, region, etc.). During colonial periods, almost every country exhibited some sort of ethnocentrism against their colonial rulers. Due to this same patriotic determination, you can see almost everything in the USA has the footprint of American ethnocentrism that defies the norms and practices of British colonial rulers. Take the example of a household British electric switch that turns on when you move it downwards, whereas an American electric switch will turn on in just the opposite direction (upwards). Whereas an English car is a right hand drive car, an American car will be of left hand drive. These are a few of the ways that American consumerism holds the footprints of patriotism until today.
Getting back to this Indian subcontinent, the movement during colonial period to use locally made clothes and boycott English clothes could be an example of patriotism in consumerism. Promoting Ambassador car as a product “made in India” was also focused through the mix of patriotism and consumerism in India that worked for a long time. In the past, in the absence of globalization of businesses, ethnocentrism (and specifically patriotism) played a significant role in shaping the customers’ tastes and preferences.
Now, there is a big question whether patriotism and consumerism can be mixed together any longer to make a fiery effect in the market. This is the age of specialization and outsourcing, which has ultimately led businesses to mutual dependencies on a global scale. With the end of colonial era in most of the continents, and increase in dependencies due to specialization, consumers are turning out to be more “rational” than they were ever before, particularly when it comes to weighing in “money” and “love” for country. Influx of cheap American flags “made in China” could be an example (some flags were reported to have printing mistakes with more than 50 stars!). Slow death of Indian Ambassador car could be another example. Maruti-Suzuki, being a joint venture of Suzuki and Maruti, is preferred to Ambassador because of fuel efficiency and design, no matter a foreign company’s name is in there. Recently, Tata Nano was shy to promote itself as an Indian car, it boasted itself in the media as a car “made in Germany” (because critical components were outsourced from Germany). In Bangladesh, Pran Cola could not compete with American Coke even after Pran Cola was promoted as a “local” (deshi) cola, appealing for patriotic consumption.
The bottom line is, consumers are getting more rational due to globalization. Just like social, economic, and technological borders within countries are waning, so is the ethnocentrism (and patriotism as well) when it comes to consumerism. The message to the ethnocentric brand promoters is this: “I love your brand more than my native brand if your brand can satisfy my wants in better ways and I can save some money”.