What does “sustainability” mean in marketing?

So, I’m still reading The Ecology of Commerce. In it, Paul Hawken gives a triad of issues that businesses must face in order to be ecologically sustainable. They are, “what it takes, what it makes, and what it wastes.” In short, businesses must consider their actions or production in terms of the resources they consume, the impact the product has, and the resources wasted by the production/product. This may be a stretch, but I see these same concerns as ones that should be faced by marketers as they seek to become more socially responsible.

First, I want to look at “what it takes.” In terms of ecological sustainability, “what it takes” refers to the resources that are depleted in order to produce a product. An example of this would be the necessity of wood-grain trim in automobiles. In order to provide a sense of luxury, valuable trees must be cut down. So, what is “taken” by marketing? If we look at time and attention as a resource, marketing definitely consumes great quantities of these things. How many ads are do see on a daily basis?

Second, what is the relevancy of “what it makes” to marketing? In the ecological sense, “what it makes” refers to the energy and toxins that the products being manufactured require. When I think about this in terms of marketing, I can’t help but think about the uni-directional nature of traditional marketing and the toxic impact that has on consumers. By this I mean that traditional marketing seems to create passive consumers that look to Madison Avenue for their next “need.” To me, this is a lot like turning a grassland that has the ability to produce important things like oxygen and food into a landfill where things are dumped.

Finally, how does “what it wastes” relate to marketing? In terms of the environment, “what it wastes” refers to the tremendous amounts of wasted energy and resources that go into producing products. How much money and human energy goes into producing the giant ad campaigns of major corporations? What if a major automobile manufacturer that spent millions and millions of dollars to advertise during the Super Bowl took those funds and resources and used them to take everyone who purchased one of their cars in the last year out to lunch to discuss the customer’s experience with the car? Which would be a more effective way of creating new customers and maintaining old customers. After all, isn’t word-of-mouth still a powerful marketing tool? Wouldn’t the highly skilled and intelligent women and men in marketing departments around the world be better utilized discovering new ways to connect with customers on a deeper, more conversational level?

An example of what I would consider to be “sustainable” marketing would be Wine Library TV. For those of you unfamiliar with this podcast, Wine Library TV is a show that entertains while it educates about wine. It is hosted by the uber-passionate Gary Vaynerchuk who is the Director of Operations at Wine Library in Springfield, NJ, a wine and spirits merchant site and store. While Gary’s show may not be for everyone, it is hard to argue with its success. I do not pretend to know exactly how much Wine Library’s business has been boosted by Wine Library TV, but I can’t help but imagine that the numbers are impressive. What’s more is that this marketing technique is, in essence, a commercial that people actually want to watch. According to the website, Wine Library TV has about 60,000 viewers per day. As well as being entertaining, Wine Library TV adds value to people’s lives as it educates them on wine and wine tasting. Finally, it is conversational. Gary Vaynerchuk reponds to emails and provides a forum for viewers to discuss the shows and wine. To me, this seems be a great model for sustainable marketing.


1 comment so far

  1. jacob nazar on

    hello , wel, thats geart i like that ,but i will like u to give me more information about Business and Marketing ok .but this is my email jacob@unworldafrica.com or nazarjacob@yahoo.com ok i will like to learn more about that pls .

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