• jacquelinebruce

Does marketing really have a place in a sustainable world? Part 2: The one with the price


The traditional 4 P’s of Marketing – Product, Price, Place, Promotion. It’s a back to basics approach to thinking about how to go to market. What product will you be marketing, what price will you sell it at, where will you market it and how will you market it? Now, I believe that we really need to revisit these 4 P’s if we are going to apply them to a sustainable world. We need to be teaching these 4 P’s in a different way so that marketing departments are better equipped to help drive sustainability in communications and marketing channels.

In this article of my four part series we’re looking at Price. What price should stuff be in a sustainable world and why?

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet."

This, as I am sure you will know, was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness from Terry Pratchett’s book, Men at Arms.

Making cheap stuff for 'poor' people makes a few people a lot of money. Because cheap stuff doesn’t last, 'poor' people need to buy again. And again. And again. So, it's a false economy. And of course, cheap stuff is usually made from cheap materials. Materials that will have been dragged away from the earth and will end up in landfill – probably quite soon after they were made. The cheap clothes, the boots, the toys, the electronics, the food, it was most likely made in a sub standard factory. By people who are overworked, underpaid and suffering. So that other slightly less poor people who can buy the cheaper stuff because they too are overworked, underpaid and suffering at the hands of shareholders. What a horrible circle of power and corruption.

Primark bosses, who made £8bn in revenue last year won't be shopping for clothes in Primark. Nor will the Walton family (owners of ASDA/Walmart - financially richest family in the US and financially richest non-Royal family in the world ) be shopping at ASDA or Walmart. They sip their expensive champagne, eat only the best food in their very expensive holiday homes or yachts, whilst hoarding their obscene billions. Continuing to plough cheap sh!t products into the world whilst paying their staff sh1t money and using and abusing people in supply chains without any f@cks given. And 'poor' people buy stuff in their shops to give to food banks and homeless people.

So that's a scratch of the surface of my take on the problems of pricing in an unsustainable world. I know that marketing departments won't have a blind bit of say in any of this wide lens view of stuff. But let's look at how marketing departments could help in those businesses that do want to do better. The pricing solutions (which must reflect the quality of the products).

So what would price be like in a sustainable world in my humble opinion?

Well, unlike the sh1t circle of poverty described above, the stuff in our shops would be reflective of the quality of materials, quality of business practices and quality of fairness and dignity in the world.

Better made products, in better businesses might mean higher prices. But if that was the case around the world, then we would all be able to afford nice things, built to last, that would never go to landfill. And people wouldn’t have to buy stuff every goddamn weekend…

Product as a Service (Rental)

Ok – stepping into the realms of the circular economy here, which, quite frankly is kinda boring for most people I would imagine. Summed up, this is ‘Klarna’, rental agreements, interest free credit. Call it what you want – ‘product as a service’ is a fancy way of saying you pay for something monthly. That something could be jeans (MUD), lighting (EGG) or what about a mobile phone - Fairphone. With all of these examples you never actually own the jeans or the bulb or the phone (much like any mobile except these guys have a good business practice). When the jeans are done, you send them back to MUD who send a new pair. When the bulb blows, you send the bulb back and get a new one. You pay for the light, not for the bulb. When you no longer want your phone, you send it back to Fairphone who do a hella lot more than just recycle it. Make sense? Good.

For illustration only. Not an EGG bulb!

Each of these businesses retain ownership of the materials, offer customers an incentive to return the product and then they deal with repairing, remanufacturing or recycling the materials when they get the unwanted products back. This creates good jobs for people to deal with these products – to remanufacture, to repair, to recycle. To make into something new! And the business doesn’t need to endlessly keep taking resources from the planet. Win – win – win – win eh win. So much winning I had to repeat it. Win.

So we can make more expensive things more affordable by offering stuff people need for a monthly charge so that they can spread the cost. Or how about we just pay people more money so they can afford to buy nicer, well made things?

The answer to the question...

The answer to the question, does marketing really have a place in a sustainable world is still yes. Whilst marketing departments will have no power to change the buying department, the supply chain or ethics or morals of businesses, when a businesses does finally find the way to sustainable practices, these are the pricing considerations that marketing departments must know about and must know how to communicate. And suggest. When a business decides to get on the road to sustainability, marketing people and departments must be knowledgable and aware of what their part is. In smaller businesses, they might even help to drive that change from the bottom up.

In a perfect world...final thought

How about we strive for a better than the awful ‘Living Wage’ that businesses are happy to gloat about. How about we pay people well so we can all afford to buy nice things that we need and sometimes just want. Sorry, we’re not going to get away from buying stuff. There’s no point fighting against that. So we need to make sure what is being made, is being made to last, to stay out of landfill, to exist in a world where nothing goes to waste. Imagine if we had 100% employment around the world, working less hours, being paid more and being as efficient as bees.

Jaxx, stay conscious people.

Wee sidenote…

Whilst I’m on the subject of price. Of course it isn’t just low ticket items that are an indicator of inequality. Diamonds – one of the most luxurious bits of rock on the planet – are expensive. Yet people still suffer in Africa to mine for these. Yes the situation is a little better (the Kimberley Process a step in the right direction) with but it’s not perfect. Yet people still continue to suffer. Bit of further reading here and here on this subject

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