Archive for Consumer

Advertisers don’t want to change the world. Well they failed on THAT score!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 28, 2011 by marketingheart

I’ve been having an interesting discussion on ad industry site Mumbrella about the use of stereotypes in advertising, which led me to a realisation.

In keeping with the prevailing head-in-the-sand position taken by the ad industry, my debater posted “Advertisers on the whole aren’t trying to change the world, they just want to stand out and sell product at the lowest possible investment.”

My response is that of course selling product changes the world! Every transaction that we encourage causes a cycle of production – often utilising finite natural resources; consumption – often not good for our health; and waste. And that’s to say nothing about the cultural impact that advertising has on us.

Marketers and advertisers have to  understand this, have the balls to acknowledge it and at the very least do what they do with eyes open. I’m not naive enough to think that we can change our entire industrial/consumption models overnight, but it’s imperative that we open discussion and contemplation about such things if we are to even bother looking for more sustainable models. PLEASE watch this incredibly important video:


Green Conviction meets Market Opportunism?

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by marketingheart

There’s a growing acceptance of the marketing potency of going green…isn’t there?  Chris Grannell consulting director at strategy agency Ellis Foster McVeigh posted a very interesting comment to an earlier post of mine about the conflicts and potentially synergies of Conviction Greens (believers) vs Commercial Greens (marketing opportunists). Chris said that since “both groups seek uptake of their ideas – market penetration in other words” the two are sufficiently aligned to just get on with it and commit to increased emphasis on green marketing across the board.

However, reports from the recent US National Retailers Federation convention reported that at a series of Sustainability Sessions  the prevailing view was that there was insufficient  consumer push to provide strong rationale for going green. (Confirming this, my own research has turned up little in the way of solid evidence quantitatively linking green values to market success; perhaps others can point me in the right direction?).

Speaking at one session, Kevin Hagen, director of social responsibility at REI, the outdoors chain, gave his reasons why businesses need to address sustainable practice and look at green products. One is activist pressure – an army of bloggers is watching business behaviour and sites like brandkarma facilitate the sharing of consumer views, both positive and negative. Second, growing government interest in where products are sourced and and what they’re made of. Third, consumers responding to green products. Chris put it slightly differently: “there are four main areas through which commercial value can be created by green: These are (1) reputation (2) cost-reduction (3) diversification into new products and (4) ex-ante advantage – in other words, getting ahead of the market and reaping the benefits later”.

Both variants seem to agree that green is bigger than ‘stick a daisy on the label’ product positioning, however even that can present enormous challenges. In the US,  sustainability indexes (aka green supply chain rating systems) are becoming more common. One being developed by the outdoor recreation industry, the Eco Index,  with more than 100 companies on board, is designed to measure the environmental footprint of apparel, footwear and gear which will  eventually be used for customer-facing information, like the Energy Star rating on appliances. Four years into development, however, the Index isn’t ready.  Eco Index brands can’t decide on how to publish it. After all, rating the sustainability of a shirt is very different from judging the green qualities of a sneaker. Walmart has been working on its similarly minded sustainability index for the past year, but so far the company hasn’t produced any eco-labels either. The difficulty of securing sufficient input information about the supply chain should not be underestimated. As Hagen said,  “Our supply chain is great at getting us product. It’s really terrible at giving us information.”

But he insists sustainability doesn’t have to be consumer-driven. ” Consumers will love (our efforts). But they don’t need to be the reason why we’re doing it”.

This hints at a growing acceptance that corporations need to do the right thing purely out of a sense of responsibility to the planet. As Greg Wittbecker  , a Director of Alcoa (reportedly) said “[we] must work together for common sustainability goals that transcend individual commercial objectives and we must approach this with a sense of urgency”.

Could there one day be a perfect storm where Conviction meets Market Opportunity?

An awkward marriage of convenience struggles to consumate

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, sustainability with tags , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by marketingheart

Chris Grannell consulting director at strategy agency Ellis Foster McVeigh recently visited the lions’ den. He posted an excellent thought piece on Mumbrella, which under the guidance of its (English) founder, has become probably Australia’s leading site for the advertising and media industries.

Chris put pen to paper to remind us that market-based Green thinking can assist achieve penetration and profitability – in other words that capitalism and Greenies/ Green values can be perfectly compatible if somewhat mis-matched bedfellows. I’ve blogged a little on this before.

Chris characterises two groups, Conviction Greenies who see marketers as working entirely at cross purposes with them, and (potential) Market-based Greenies who see a dollar in leveraging green values and the support they receive from consumers. He talks about the opportunity for partnership between the two in order to grasp new market opportunities. As Chris says “We can all think of examples from mature categories – from electricity retail to automotive to cosmetics – where firms have created premium products from ‘green’ or renewable associations.”.

Whether the market-based group are in fact Greenies or opportunistic capitalists and whether it matters is worth teasing out. Clearly Chris is a pragmatist, pointing out the self-evident truth that the support of corporations for sustainability needs to be harnessed through their wallets, profit being the only effective incentive to become more responsible.  The double bottom line is what it’s referred to, and certainly there are some great examples of it around.

Clearly the partnership has to work both ways and as Chris says, together both parties can to do a better job. Things get a little steamy as Chris writes “Marketing and sustainability are edging closer. Marketing is beginning to eye some of sustainability’s serious assets – not to mention some of the friends she seems to be acquiring. And sustainability is beginning to find marketing’s understanding of consumers more than a little attractive.”

Chris says the Green movement needs to use better marketing ie use the system we’re all stuck with, like it or not, to change the system. I agree with Chris that the green movement needs to address its own marketing to more effectively get its message across.  In fact I  blogged some time ago about attending a corporate social responsibility forum where the convening organisation was unable to articulate their proposition to the extent that they couldn’t tell me where sustainability sat vis a vis corporate social responsibility.

Nonetheless, without wishing to appear naive, I do find Chris’ little piece of matchmaking a tad disturbing; a marriage-of-convenience between the formerly-idealistic Greenie who abandoned her virtuous notion of saving the planet ‘for the sake of our children’ and instead settled for the cynical corporate puppeteer who’s gaining entree thanks to his blushing green trophy wife into into a profitable new milieu full of unrealised consumption…albeit of sustainable products! Of course I’m misrepresenting Chris here, but my point is that perhaps its precisely this discomfort (and indeed naivety) that prevents the greenies from hopping into the sack with marketers. Similarly the corporates take a lot of persuading that they wouldn’t get their rocks off far easier and more cheaply with less virtuous strategies….cheap goods, high volumes and quick profits are more familiar and undemanding seductresses. (Seth Godin provides just such persuasion here: “Just because it is going to take longer than it should doesn’t mean we should walk away. There are big opportunities here, for all of us. It’s going to take some time, but it’s worth it”.)

I think there’s most surely a place for idealism in all this, yes even within corporate strategy, if only because its the best vehicle to deliver authenticity which surely must be at the heart of any green marketing campaign. In fact, I think idealism is a necessity in green marketing. And that’s what will make the wedding night a potential disaster.

Here’s an example of this slightly uncomfortable partnership. Apart from the fact that stylishly it draws way too much on the worst excesses of action movies, I was left feeling this was simply a branding exercise for an energy corporation rather than a genuine piece of education. Perhaps it was the wasteful budget but it lacked that authenticity, the genuine earnestness that marketers find so hard to capture, if indeed they try at all. (thanks again Green Guerilla for the link).

On a lighter note, here’s another example of what happens when the marketers are let off the leash….

Then again, look what happens when Greenies try to do their messaging without marketers. The contrast is pretty stark!

Ever the pragmatist, Chris elsewhere has posted three (he says they are the only three) market-based strategies to sustainability: respond to the market, change the market, or camouflage the product. And of course as a consultant he can help companies choose which is right for them. Another example of the double bottom line at work! Well done Chris.

God tells brands to serve some purpose for consumers

Posted in Marketing, advertising, ethics, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by marketingheart

Richard Pinder is God. Well OK he’s Publicis Worldwide’s chief operating officer – but is there any significant difference? Yeah I know, Pinder gets paid more and no doubt has a better looking PA whose skirt length God would never tolerate…

Anyway, Pinder has just proclaimed that businesses should widen their concern from financial growth to what he calls “purpose”. nice corporations
Wonder what his clients will think about this sudden onslaught of sappiness:

“A world where we think it’s just about producing stuff and selling stuff is a world that will rapidly find the wheels coming off as the next generation comes through and says ‘I don’t need more handbags, more this, more that, I don’t aspire to having double what my parents had because they have too much anyway’.”

He added: “I think what now we’re seeing is a world where the products have to add a proper purpose in improving someone’s life”.

Would the last client to leave the building please turn off the lights. Well Pinder doesn’t think so:

“It is well-documented that Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble is extremely zealous at promoting purpose-inspired benefits and serving customers not selling to customers. To me the fact that the world’s largest user of advertising is in that mode tells you something…. the world’s second largest one said something quite similar. Keith Weed of Unilever talked a lot about good rather than profit being what consumers want to know companies will do.”

Wow..nice sentiments, although coming from where they do, I think one has to be deeply suspicious – is this simply the wounded gasps of a marketing industry in decline and desperate for new relevance? If these businesses are no longer to be concerned with financial growth then just what is their useful purpose to consumers and -assuming such a purpose can be identified – should such purpose not be better provided by other means?

Then God becomes Pinder again as he just doesn’t quite manage to maintain his lofty tone: “You really have to be looking at how we are going to build content that people are going to want to interact with and not just feel is disposable and transient, forgettable. How many ads have you seen that are forgettable in the last 24 hours? Anything that is transient and here today gone tomorrow is rejected by the consumer these days. They don’t want to know. They want to know what’s behind what you’re doing. If we want customers to care about our ads and our communications we’ve got to make them have utility.”

So there you have it; we’re not talking about corporations fundamentally reviewing their role in society to see whether they can serve a purpose to improve our lives, but instead we’re just trying to get those pesky consumers to take notice of our ads…so they keep consuming in order to maintain corporate growth. god profitNow, that’s leadership!