Does marketing really have a place in a sustainable world? Part 4: The one with the place.
When I started thinking about these four articles, I had a pretty clear idea of what I'd be writing about in terms of Product, Price and Promotion in a sustainable marketing department. However, this article about Place, has got me thinking a little more. Which is why I left it until the end. Traditionally, the Place element of the 4 P's of Marketing honed in on where products should be placed in the market. So what's unsustainable about where products are sold? It was when I asked myself this question that my mind started to tick over with the problems of Place.
Begin with Bezos
I'm starting with a story. Once upon a time, in a land that now feels so far away, I attended an Entrepreneurial Scotland event in Glasgow Academy. I went along to listen to John Watson, the Founder of one of Glasgow's oldest print houses. After the talk, we congregated in the foyer to have some nibbles and a beverage and do that awkward and draining thing that is networking. I got chatting to some lovely people and of course the, "what do you do" question is asked. I spoke about Undisturbed and explained the idea behind it. I was then asked what my plans would be to go to market. Where would I sell the products?
Amazon was suggested by one of the gentlemen in the group. I made an unimpressed face (as is my want) and shook my head, politely explaining that Amazon would absolutely not be on the radar for a potential sales channel for Undisturbed. Why ever not?! Was the exclamation. I was met with objection and derision, for even presenting my reasons for avoiding the monster. As a side note, I often wonder, if, in these situations, had a man made the same comments, would he receive the same objections. Anyway, I digress.
Anyone reading this who has an ounce of sustainable blood in their body will understand the many reasons for choosing not to sell via Amazon. There are so many issues around the business that I don't need to point out. But for the purposes of the article, a few are - excessive packaging, human rights violations, business ethics - or lack of, greedy owner, tax avoidance, market dominance and so on. Amazon is a Goliath.
I have strong values, ethics and morals and there is not a chance in hell that I would distribute Undisturbed products via Amazon.
Bricks v Clicks
Remember when company websites were in their infancy? 'Bricks and Clicks' were the buzzwords of marketing departments. We still needed to have the 'www' on marketing communications. I would have been working in the car industry when websites really started to become a must, rather than a nice to have. And the car industry was somewhat behind the curve in the new digital world.
Fast forward just 15 years and now it feels like priorities have been flipped on its head. Online shopping has become, for many, a preferred way to buy (online sales accounted for 20% of total retail UK sales in 2019).
But how is online shopping affecting our carbon footprint? And should we be sticking with the physical outlets for a better, more sustainable shopping experience?
I was going to go into details about one versus the other. But as I was typing I thought, in terms of sustainable purchases, does it really matter? If we have conscious businesses and people choose to vote with their moolah, then by default, whether the place to sell is online or in a physical space shouldn't be a concern.
In fact, we should be offering both. We need to be making it as easy as possible for people to choose sustainable, well made products that last. And we need to be making it easy to return those products to the business when they are no longer needed/wanted or need repaired or replaced.
We need to be focussing on shifting people away from 'fast' and 'disposable' to sustainable choices - whether that's online or in a physical space.
The really sustainable 'place' option?
For everyone, this has to boil down to localisation. Locally owned businesses, local markets, the return of High Streets and community. The neoliberal, globalisation model is not working for any of us - apart from the super rich who don't give a monkey about the planet. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we cannot continue to rely on overseas markets. And why should we?
'Great Britain' used to be known for manufacturing and we've sold out in favour of imports and the service industry. Truly sustainable businesses will not only make good products that last, they will create good, well paid jobs and will only ship as far as makes sense to do so.
Stay conscious people.