Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Blimey! (Sorrell on Responsible Marketing)

from Marketing Week by Ruth Mortimer, 28/3

Sorrell told me: “All our instincts as clients, agencies [and] media owners are to encourage people to consume more – super consumption.” He added that people had become used to: “The aspiration that you should consume more; the aspiration that you should have a bigger car; the aspiration that you should have a number of holidays, bigger houses [and] multiple houses”.

His point was that marketers and their agencies need to adopt a new way of thinking to stop this trend of ‘super consumption’ becoming a real problem. In an age of worries about global warming and limited environmental resources, brands need to behave with responsibility. He suggested that the days of companies creating items that would quickly become obsolete could – and should – be numbered.

Sorrell cited Apple as an example of a brand creating products that consumers quickly jettison in favour of the company’s newer ones. While nobody can deny that Apple produces desirable, design-led objects, they do tend to become outdated very quickly. The company cut the price of its 8GB iPhone model and scrapped the original 4GB model only two months after launch.

But should Apple really be worrying about issues such as ‘super consumption’? As the economic climate worsens, don’t marketers need to keep parting people from their hard-earned cash? This is especially important when the finance director starts asking difficult questions about how the company can afford to run TV spots when sales are being squeezed.

Let’s apply some common sense. Sorrell isn’t saying that marketers should stop doing their job properly... he is picking up on an important point: any problem opens up opportunities. You can be the company worrying about what ‘super consumption’ means for you or the one rubbing your hands together with glee at all the potential new business it presents.

If people are less willing to buy items in large volumes because they have less money, make a virtue in advertising of how long your products last. Charge slightly more for them. That’s good for the landfill sites and good for your sales.

Or what about finding ways of getting people paying to ‘upgrade’ old products? It shows that you’re thinking about obsolescence while still offering people the sexy new functions and features they desire.


Jennifer Roberts said...

I would like to see Apple and other companies willingly take back their obsolete products and somehow recycle or reuse them, so they don't end up in a scrap heap. I think that has to become part of the buying decision at some point..."where can I take this once it has outlived its usefulness"? And I think it could become part of a company's brand...they could be perceived as thinking their products are worth having back or something along those lines.

Charles Frith said...

I keep reading the good stuff on my mobile RSS and unable to comment on them easily in the back of cabs. Anyway this is indeed remarkable news in some ways.

Patrick Byers said...

Really interesting post. Brave comments that need to be said.

Those interested in Responsible Marketing should visit The Responsible Marketing Blog at

Happy marketing.