What is it with marketing and brands that they always seem to end up in the spotlight of sustainability critique? Shouldn’t marketing, brands and sustainability be regarded as two sides of the same coin? One person that should know is Marc Mathieu (@marcfmath), Unilever vice president for marketing. According to him, it is the power and reach of brands and marketing which makes them the scapegoat for many of society’s troubles today: the ills of capitalism, the destruction of the planet, the perversity of globalisation, or the shame of over-consumption. And while this might be true in some cases, it certainly isn’t the whole picture, as brands also have the power to make positive change.
After all, as Marc writes in the magazine Marketing Week, brands “have the ability to rally millions of people behind a story, cause or belief bigger than themselves. Marketing can understand people, identify their needs, invent stories and shape behaviors – creating popular culture along the way.”
The problem is, by itself sustainability isn’t a particularly powerful notion. It’s complex, difficult to understand and people don’t always see why it matters to them or, in other words, what’s in it for them. “They think it’s an issue for governments or the businesses that caused the problem in the first place.” On the other hand, most of us will have heard about the need to alter our lifestyles and the way things are done if we want future generations to be able to flourish and thrive. As Marc puts it, “something has got to give. Something has got to change.”
For Marc, it all comes down to marketers making use of their skills to shift public consciousness and to lead the way to a future where sustainable living can be commonplace. “Marketing and brands can be used to help us do things we really need, with resources we can manage, to impress people we should care about – the children of tomorrow, the generations to come.” He couldn’t be more right.
Picture credit: Manu_H
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