Businesses, governments and people are becoming increasingly aware of the impact their buying behaviour has on the planet and its people. This has created a moral dilemma where we all question whether to buy or not to buy? And if so what to buy?
In essence, marketing can be used to influence behavior, not necessarily only to sell products and to make profit. This makes marketing a really good tool to help consumers become better informed as well as to pressure other businesses to change the way in which they approach producing and selling their products. However, in the era of mass consumption it has become a tool to benefit businesses, helping them grow their profits more than anything else. This makes the idea that marketing and advertising can help businesses transition into more sustainable practices and also help consumers develop better consumption habits, counterintuitive at first.
Fortunately, as more people feel the urgency to change towards a more responsible society, more and more marketeers and companies are taking the role of educating their consumers and are striving for internal change. Consumers are also raising their hands and demanding for companies to offer products that are better for the environment as well as for the people that make them.
This is creating a marketing environment where some consumers and businesses are working together to produce and select better products, along with a slower consumption cycle.
This means that some businesses are aiming to create an economy where things are used for longer periods of time, repurposed and repaired before being thrown away. Marketing is a crucial part of a change towards this mentality as it can shift consumers’ behaviours towards a more sustainable and ethical future. Some researchers have shown that there are 5 ways in which marketing can lead to behavior change towards sustainability:
- Social influence: This is where we feel the need to act like our peers, and if they our friends, families and even the companies from which we buy are becoming more eco-friendly then we are more likely to follow suit
- Habits: Marketing can help us disrupt our habits. Have you ever seen a gym ad that made you feel like signing up for a zumba class on the spot, well the same can happen for environmental causes like buying second hand or making you rethink about waste management
- Individual self: At the end of the day we see the world through our eyes. Marketeers can learn what makes their consumers act and think one way or another, but at the end of the day the consumer has final say over how to consume. So, when someone’s individuality is activated by means of marketing, as in when they see themselves somehow represented on what they are seeing, they are more likely to agree with it and act in the same way.
- Feelings and thinking: Marketing can make you feel happy, sad, romantic or lonely. In the same way, it can make you think twice about buying a plastic bottle of water by making you realise how much environmental impact that one purchase has.
- Tangibility: Sometimes facts and figures can be useful marketing tools to lead consumers to go towards buying a product. Same goes for better consumption and production as having more information about the abstract notion of climate change and environmental degradation. If we know the facts we are more likely to make better decisions.
These are five ways in which marketing can be used for good and to build a better future. Knowing this makes it easier to develop awareness over how marketing can in fact be sustainable if used correctly.
In all, being a company or a consumer in 2021 comes with a great deal of responsibility, but we should remain hopeful and be proactive towards change.