The automobile industry example of indirect sustainability marketing transformation processes and the discussion of the sometimes surprising length of time it takes for some changes to happen presented in Wednesday’s lecture brought to my mind the example of smoking.
I’m too young to have a personal experience, but thanks to some good quality entertainment, the Mad Men tv-series, I have a clear and vivid memory of the early sixties. The whole series starts with the topic: tobacco companies can not advertise their product with health benefits anymore. Yes, that’s correct – for a long time, smoking was advertised as good for your health. Whether it was lack of knowledge or some shadier business, is not relevant here. (And neither is the fact that this was the beginning of image advertising as we know it.) What interests me here is how long it took before smoking actually was not cool anymore. How long the path was, and what were all the steps. From knowledge to action. My mom has told me it was between my big sister and me that the insight developed that it is not good to smoke while being pregnant. This was almost two decades since the early sixties. In the nineties, if I remember correct, the trains still had cars for smokers so that you could actually sit the whole duration of the trip and smoke. And it was a long way to the 00s before smoking was banned in bars and restaurants (2007 in Finland). Still, even today approximately one fifth of the Finnish population smokes. 79% of them is concerned of the impact of smoking to their health.
Smoking might be one of the trickiest habits to change, but the sheer length of the process in the sense of change in attitudes and behavior is stunning and more than a tad depressing. Five decades down with information about how smoking is bad for your health and still we have 20% of the population going on with the habit (and that’s the whole population, which makes the portion of grown-ups even bigger). With smoking, the image has changed and it’s not cool anymore. With similar, personal consumption decisions related to sustainability, there’s still a long way to go. I wonder what will be the opening topic in a 2050s version of Mad Men.