From Marie Kondo to Acne Studios: Consumer Minimalism Defined
NEW YORK - From Marie Kondo’s bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to high-end brands like Acne Studios that deploy bare aesthetics, it’s evident minimalism has successfully infiltrated mainstream fashion, home design, and more. As minimalism has taken over the fashion scene, brands, designers and consumers have all interpreted minimalism in their own unique ways. However, Columbia Business School Gantcher Associate Professor of Business Silvia Bellezza offers a comprehensive definition for consumer minimalism and a first-of-its-kind Consumer Minimalism Scale, which predicts and measures the similarities between minimalist brands and consumers.
Professor Bellezza’s new research, with co-author Wharton School Professor Anne V. Wilson, provides the first-ever exploration of minimalism in relation to business and consumption. It introduces a definition for consumer minimalism along three dimensions: one, the number of possessions a person owns; two, sparse and uncluttered aesthetic; and three, intentional, mindfully-curated consumption. The researchers joined dozens of minimalism-themed Facebook groups, attended fashion shows, and examined users’ Instagram posts of their living rooms, bedrooms, and closets to create the three dimensions and inform their Consumer Minimalism Scale. Their new twelve-item scale can predict the likelihood of a consumer choosing quality over quantity. In defining consumer minimalism, they also find that minimalist brands often emphasize one of the different dimensions more so than the others.
This definition of consumer minimalism provides a broad, yet clear understanding of how commercial brands deploy minimalism to their advantage amongst consumers. Though a Jil Sander sweater might cost several hundred dollars more than a Patagonia fleece, the two brands can both be considered minimalist as the former brand projects a clean, simple aesthetic while the latter brand promotes intentional purchases of built-to-last products. With more and more shoppers turning to secondhand gift-giving rather than Amazon’s latest finds and the Buy Nothing movement gaining steam, it’s evident that consumer minimalism is here to stay.
The study, Consumer Minimalism, is available online here.
To learn more about the cutting-edge research being conducted at Columbia Business School, please visit www.gsb.columbia.edu.
About the researcher
Silvia Bellezza is the Gantcher Associate Professor of Business in Marketing at Columbia Business School. Her research focuses on status signaling in consumption. Specifically...Read more.