Consumer society, consequences and what it means for my view on marketing

I had never considered that some of the most beneficial technologies also gave rise to unwanted phenomena. Technological developments in chemistry and medicine saved millions of people from death. The industrial revolution increased productivity and workers’ average income. At the same time those technological developments allowed the rise of a consumer society. We now do not only consume more than we actually need, but we also make consumption a focal point in our life. 

But what is the problem with these new developments? Why not just continue to consume?  
The lecture emphasized disastrous trends induced by consumer society. Trends including peak oil, peak water, climate change, peak fish and peak soil are present nowadays. Consumer society as we see it now will exhaust resources, generating severe problems for upcoming generations. Thus, the lecture for me clarified that continuing consumer society without any limitations is not an option.

In order to change consumer society, sustainable development is enforced. In this context, the role of marketing is different from what I’ve learned about marketing so far. Traditionally, companies use marketing to asses customers’ needs and satisfy those needs with their products with the objective to establish profitable long-term customer relationships. However, this common marketing perspective does not take into account the problems addressed above. If customer needs require products which damage environmental and social aspects, companies will still enforce the development, promotion and distribution of such products to maximize their profits. For example, we still see SUVs on our streets and way too many disposable products in the supermarkets as customers still demand those products. Sustainability marketing now adds sustainable relationships with the social and natural environment to the marketing perspective.

What I thought of first was: How does this change marketing in a company? How are companies’ marketing plans changed?  In common marketing plans, a situation analysis is conducted PEST-analysis or similar. These political, economic, social and technological forces are supposed to be not controllable by the company.  They set the framework for the company’s marketing efforts. Then, consumer behavior is examined, needs are discovered leading to the company’s target group. Combining both will shape the marketing mix, which is controlled by the company. Sustainable marketing, however, emphasizes socio-ecological issues on a different level. The major insight I got so far, is that in sustainable marketing companies try to tackle socio-ecological issues (also on an institutional level) and “marry” them with consumer behavior by introducing sustainable products. Socio-ecological issues are not perceived as “uncontrollable” by the company.  

I’m looking forward to learning how companies implement sustainability in their business and how consumers react towards those products.

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