This is a great Talk from Rory Sutherland. It’s both extremely funny but drives home an important point. Marketing, branding, and advertising help large brands gain power and profits and…it works.

They wouldn’t do it otherwise.

Branding is about managing perceptions.

Often this is a manipulative tool, as Tim Jackson puts it, we are “persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.

The problem is that most marketing is selling things that are bad for us, the people who made it or the planet. We aren’t necessarily made happier by what we consume. Like a hollow chocolate egg, it tastes sweet for a short while, but soon it’s gone and we crave what’s next.

Rory argues that marketing can change human behaviour by changing our perceptions of what we buy and it’s inherent value.

There is real value in being good. We can change how the world works, but we need to learn from those that market/brand/advertise themselves successfully.

Rory Sutherland is right to point out that in a society where we face many ethical and environmental challenges. We need to  learn to do more with less, to appreciate what we have instead of what we don’t. Doing this in a way that makes our lives richer (without perpetuating the idea that we need to accumulate an endless amount of stuff) is key.

As a business, it doesn’t make sense to deplete and compromise your source of materials / ingredients for the short gain if it means you won’t have a business in the long term. As consumers, it doesn’t make sense to carry on frantically purchasing things that have become essentially disposable (when they shouldn’t be). We need to be better than that. The things we buy need to be of benefit to the people who make them and the people who purchase them while minimising their impact on the environment.

Making an ethical and environmentally friendly purchase shouldn’t have to be a compromise. What does that mean for the good intentioned brands today? Your story is more important than ever, but ethics need to be matched by good products and/or services. Regardless of your ethics, if your costumers are not happy with what they received, they won’t come back to you.

As a society, in some cases, we should be buying less:

  • Fast fashion is one that comes to mind straight away, garments that will last a few weeks or months before they’re thrown away, wasting the resources and energy that went into making them is not sustainable. Instead, we should be supporting ethically and sustainably made fashion that is made to last, not be disposable. Or making fast fashion more responsible and ethical and turning this into an inherent value. Can marketing make throwaway clothing undesirable?

In other instances, we should be buying more:

  • Between 20 and 40% of  fruit and vegetables in the UK don’t make it to the shops because of strict cosmetic standards, out of sight out of mind right? Nature doesn’t grow fruit and vegetables with a spirit level and measuring tape. Wonky, slightly bigger or smaller than usual produce shouldn’t be wasted, it should make it to our plate, we need to eat more of it. Can marketing turn the unwanted into something more desirable?

Branding, marketing and advertising (and all other persuading industries like PR, media etc) can play a role in changing people’s behaviour.

How can we make that change more sustainable and ethical?

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