January 5, 2010
By MARIA HALKIAS
The Dallas Morning News
This was the year Americans mastered doing without. For some students at Southern Methodist University, the University of North Texas and Texas Christian University, the concept of making substitutions wasn't just an edict from home. It was a firsthand lesson in how consumers adjusted to the new economic realities.
For the second straight year, professors at the three colleges collaborated on an advertising class assignment in which students solicited volunteers to do without something they normally consume for two weeks. They tracked people who gave up denim, jewelry, flip-flops, bottled water, credit and debit cards, condiments, YouTube, Facebook and political blogs before the November 2008 election.
SMU senior Arleen Averill discovered when young women couldn't wear jewelry, they felt "naked, awkward and less girly."
"They missed how jewelry made them feel more mature and ladylike," Averill said.
When denim was removed from wardrobes, students "overdress for class," said Fernando Valdes, an SMU graduate who talked about his project during an interview that landed him a job at Atomic Design in Plano.
When volunteers couldn't drink bottled water, they thought they were going to substitute other drinks, said Caitlin Christopher, an SMU senior advertising major. "But they weren't satisfied with other drinks and drank tap water."
Alice Kendrick, advertising professor at SMU's Temerlin Advertising Institute, said the research has resulted in some big "aha" moments.
"Even the most ardent brand fans, dyed-in-the-wool devotees of Nike shorts or religious users of denim, discover they can do without," she said.
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