Ecological Hierarchy, Fair Price For Gas, Etc.

People will dutifully bemoan any sort of environmental problem, but a Harris Poll finds some problems are regarded as more problematic than others. Respondents were given a list of such problems and asked to rank them on a scale of 1 (low priority) to 10 (high priority). Water pollution was ranked as a 9 or 10 by 52 percent of respondents, and air pollution got such scores from 48 percent. Global warming, ozone depletion and depletion of forest lands each got those scores from 41 percent; “recycling more material” (which sounds more like a solution than a problem) rated a 9 or 10 from 39 percent of those polled.

Be the first on your block to own some new product? No thanks. A majority of consumers are in no rush to buy a product when it first comes out, to judge by a WSL Strategic Retail survey. Just 30 percent of consumers said they’d bought a new-to-the-market item in the three months prior to being queried. (The chart below gives some demographic breakdowns.) Predictably, younger shoppers are more likely than their elders to quickly try a new product. But it’s striking that the number for the 55-plus cohort isn’t lower when you consider the degree to which marketers simply ignore that cohort. Imagine how many new products the geezers would buy if advertisers asked them to! Elsewhere in the poll, respondents who reported having bought a new product in the past three months were asked to cite the categories in which they’d done so. Household cleaning products, breakfast cereals, cosmetics, hair-care products and oral-care items topped the list. At the bottom were over-the-counter allergy medications, jeans, facial moisturizer and beer.

Despite squealing like stuck pigs when gasoline prices surged above $3 a gallon in early September, Americans are adjusting (upwards) their sense of what the commodity ought to cost. In an Associated Press/Ipsos Public Affairs survey, adults were asked to say what a “fair price” would be for a gallon of gas. Fewer than half (46 percent) answered “less than $2,” with 41 percent saying from $2 to less than $3 would be fair. As you digest those numbers, recall that Americans filled the air with lamentations last fall because the price of a gallon was around $2—which, at the time, seemed unconscionably high. By the way, Americans (usually referred to in this context as “gas-guzzling Americans”) aren’t the only folks who find gas prices a burden. While 69 percent of U.S. respondents expect gas-price rises to cause them “financial hardship” over the next six months, even higher proportions said the same in South Korea (85 percent), France (77 percent) and Italy (74 percent). The figures were just slightly lower in Canada (65 percent) and Australia (63 percent).

We endure enough inescapable failure in life without inviting failure we can avoid. As such, let us applaud the fact that fewer Americans now try to avoid snacking. That’s a doomed enterprise if ever there was one. According to a new report from The NPD Group, 53 percent of consumers say they try to avoid snacking, down from 71 percent in 1985. Among other changes the report traces across that 20-year span: The annual number of skipped main meals per person has risen from 102 to 114; the proportion of in-home main meals that include a fresh product has fallen from 56 percent to 46 percent; and the number of meals the average person eats per year in restaurants has fallen from 93 to 80. Taking up some of the slack has been a rise in the annual number of meals per person bought in restaurants but eaten in a car: from 19 then to 32 now. Another part of the report confirms the supposition that as more people become overweight, there’s more tolerance of that condition. In 1985, 55 percent of respondents agreed completely with the statement, “People who are not overweight look a lot more attractive.” In the new survey, the number dropped to 24 percent.

Notwithstanding its rising popularity, Nascar remains a specialized taste. I’d bet most Nascar fans would recognize a big-time NFL quarterback, while many NFL fans would not recognize a big-time Nascar driver. This thought arises as more and more commercials—including new ones for Sunoco—use drivers as their resident celebs. Those of us who don’t know these guys from Adam may wonder at times if they really are Nascar drivers. After all, a spot could dress any man of legal driving age in one of those jumpsuits and we wouldn’t be the wiser. (Nascar fans would have to be in on the joke, but they have more sense of humor than prissy blue-staters give them credit for.) In this case, judicious Googling assures me that Kevin Harvick, the fellow seen swimming in full Nascar regalia, is indeed one of the circuit’s drivers. Sunoco stresses its status as Nascar’s official fuel with a vignette in which a family takes Harvick along on its vacation. We see him steeping in the hot tub with the husband and wife, playing in the pool with the daughter, etc. At the end, a voiceover says that while you can’t really take Harvick with you, you can take the brand of fuel he uses. SFGT of Philadelphia created the spot.