Right choice is wrong!

This time our lectures were about what external factors influence consumer behavior and how we should choose our marketing strategies for sustainable products. Marketing can be a power tool to communicate key features of the product for consumers. Successful communication can change habits. However, if there is an error in the information what is being promoted, the effect might be counter productive or undermine the reliability of the product. Avoiding so called bona fide green washing appears to be very crucial in risk management when a product is sold with ecological or social attributes.

A good example of this was Frank’s opening slide. At the bottom it says, “Do not print. Save a tree. Go digital”. For quite many of us the world is black and white and less paper means less fallen trees. First, it seems to make sense. Cutting trees is bad; reading stuff from your electrical gadget is good. But if you really look at the issue, you might find a different answer. The ecological footprint of paper is comprised in the beginning of its lifecycle. Thereafter emissions are close to zero. And when paper is recycled, avoided emissions compensate the initial amount of emissions. Emission breakdown of digital devices is totally different. Of course mining raw materials, building the device and so on creates ecological footprint but the most significant footprint comes during the usage of the device. Every newspaper I read from my laptop uses energy that is produced somewhere, in my case in coal power plant in Helsinki. If I download and open Frank’s lecture slides over and over gain before the exam, at some point it becomes much greener to print the slides on A4 depending on time I spend on my laptop. Then, the right answer is “it depends”. Thus, quite many sustainability issues related to behavior are relative and there is no single right answer. It becomes very difficult for a consumer to make right choices. Offering right facts is the first step before right choices can be made. Sometimes the weaker alternative is stronger. It’s only a matter of your own behavior.

 

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2 comments
  1. Elina said:

    I decided to write my blog posting in a form of a comment, as Henry’s post from the previous lecture was something that caught my eye. And I have to say, that Henry’s topic is something extremely important and something that should be more talked about! Marketing can be a powerful tool, especially when we concentrate on what is told to consumers and what is not. The example about the electric devises versus traditional paper products was a good one. We are told quite often not to print in terms of saving the trees, but using all kinds of electricity consuming devices instead, is considered more ecological. However, even though the truth depends on the time that is used on going through the printed/electronic material, the users quite often only hear the one side of the truth. And whatever that side is, depends on which one of the two different approaches is advertised the most.

    One of my own favorite topics is related on packaging. Consumers quite often criticize them, saying that too many packaging materials are used or that the used materials is not eco-friendly. However, the content itself – meaning the packed good- does not get much critique, although among the manufacturers it is a well-known fact that the content always has a much bigger ecological impact compared to the packaging. This fact, however, is not mentioned, because it would make the products look bad. It is less harmful for the company to let the consumers to blame the packaging, than to let them concentrate on the environmental impacts of the product itself. When it comes to food packaging, the situation is the same. The environmental impacts of the packaging compared to the food itself are minimal, no matter how the packaging looks like. But the reason why packaging in this case quite often is the only thing that is criticized, is because the consumers do not understand the meaning of the packaging as they only evaluate its role from the end-use perspective. In addition, they do not understand that the role of the packaging is not only to contain the product and advertise it, but to protect it during the long travel that the product makes before ending up to the consumer’s hands. If the packaging is harmed during transportation and distribution, the consumer will most probably leave it on shelf instead of buying it, even if the inner good would still in mint condition, and choose the product that has unharmed packaging. This reveals how sensitive people are in their consumers choices. If a dent, even a small one, in a packaging causes rejection towards the inner product, how would we ever be able to sell unpacked products which most probably would be harmed during their life cycle before retail?

    Whoever it was who said for the first time that “packaging is bad”, did not probably know that it would shape so strongly consumer’s opinions, even though it really isn’t the only truth. But as it is said so many times, it has become an accepted fact, even though the real truth might be something different. People’s opinions can be really powerful, but quite often there is the risk, that the opinions are not based on any facts. This can lead to harmful misconceptions, but even worse, the misconceptions can be nearly impossible to change. Whatever is advertised as a truth, should be considered twice. When it comes to packaging, now when people are concentrated on criticizing them, they do not pay attention to the goods itself and their environmental impact. When we are talking about printing versus using electronic devices, the consumers only hear what the advertiser of the electronic device says. Whatever is the real truth does not seem to matter. The only thing that matters is how credibly one can advertise one point of view.

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