Having only recently become aware of the Cultural Creatives market, a 50-million-strong and growing segment that shares such values as environmental sustainability and a healthy lifestyle , marketers are seeking ways to effectively communicate with it. According to hereshowmarketing.com, Cultural Creatives don’t mind advertising, but they want it to be informative, clear, and truthful without the hard sells or emotional manipulation . Two synergistic business trends might offer some businesses a great opportunity to differentiate and communicate their products’ value to this particular market: 1) the increasingly sophisticated process- and information-focused collaborative partnerships along the value chain and 2) environmental product designs within system-based, life-cycle processes such as in Design-for-Environment (DfE) and Cradle-to-Cradle (McDonough & Braungart, 2002) approaches.
In an attempt to remain competitive in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing business environment, many organizations are building strategic partnerships and collaborative business system structures and creating integrated supply chain management systems (Muckstadt et al., 2001). The primary goal of this strategy is to create “a customer-centric pooling of resources that is mutually beneficial, and a paradigm shift that goes beyond simple transactional relationships to build long-term capabilities through alliances that drive corporate growth across the entire value chain” . One of the key elements of such collaborative business systems is the free flow of information within it, which allows for flexibility and rapid adaptation to changing conditions.
Information flow and collaboration is also an essential element for the effective design processes such as those employed by Industrial Ecology (Ehrenfeld, 2000) that involve DfE and Cradle-to-Cradle approaches. They involve the systematic integration of environmental considerations into product and process design with a particular focus on closing the loop on material and energy flows. One of the key questions that marketers engaged in such process-integrated partnerships should ask is how to most effectively take advantage of the value they offer in its product value communication.
So let me bring all of this together. First we have two significant trends occurring in business: 1) strategic collaborative partnerships across the entire product value chain and 2) environmental product design and development moving toward cradle-to-cradle closed-loop processes. Merge that with a sophisticated and significant target market labeled Cultural Creatives who seek to make informed and environmentally sensitive purchasing decisions and a marketing communications opportunity arises: environmental product life-cycle communications. This communication leverages the information available from an integrated collaborative business structure to offer customers the entire life-cycle story of a product. It would be like the label on food products. But rather than just giving information on what the final product is, it offers the customer the full product life-cycle story. The benefit would be to not only inform customers more thoroughly about that particular product to help them make more informed purchasing decisions but to also educate them to gain future strategic advantage as customers may start demanding life-cycle information. Companies ahead of the environmental design and integrated information curve will be able to capitalize on such education much more effectively.