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The Unending Binge: How “Nutritional” Advertising Can Drive Sustainability

CCA LiveE | Thursday December 9th, 2010 | 0 Comments

This post is part of a year-end series by MBA students at California College of the Arts’ Design MBA Program. Read more about our annual partnership here.

Consuming the WorldOversimplified and Out of Touch, Current Advertising Lacks the ‘Nutritional Value’ Consumers Are Desperate For

By Valerie Neumark

When I think of “going on a binge” it usually involves mass consumption of something that is not healthy over a short period of time, like “binging on junk food”…or in this case, inauthentic advertisements. They surround us everyday, saturating us in products that have negative impact on the world and; advisors expect consumers to continue their blind and uneducated purchasing. However, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of sustainability issues and they are looking for products they can ideologically support and, in turn, advertising that is not trying to “trick” them into buying something they don’t believe in. Consumers are hung-over from their binge and are looking for something truly nourishing to snack on.

As a society we are getting fed up with products and propaganda that I would classify as “junk food.” Trying to get a consumer to buy a product in today’s economic climate that quickly becomes waste is increasingly ineffective. Terms like ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ draw as much skepticism as they do support from consumers these days.  A simple ‘eco’ label doesn’t fully answer questions such as, “What will happen after I dispose of this product? Is this really recyclable? How much better for the environment is ‘organic’? To what extent are my habits having an impact on the earth?

I think the future of advertising lies in products that create brand loyalty because they are thoughtful of their impact on the world. We need products we can believe in. Zipcar is a great example. Based on utilizing excess capacity, Zipcar is an incredible innovation that capitalizes on people’s diminishing need for a full-time car. Their advertising is intelligent, thoughtful, and teaches consumers that there are options to car ownership. They seamlessly encourage their customers to evangelize the environmental, health and cost benefits of car sharing and in return, 30% of their new members come through referrals. But the fact that they hit all 3 bottom lines (people, profit, planet) is what makes them truly “nutritional.” They are profitable, sustainable, and focused on their consumer’s needs. Even more impressive is their mere presence provides a space in consumers’ minds to think differently about how they choose to consume…ah hah…they educate!

I appreciate when advertising is thoughtful, informative, and selling me a product I can feel confident in. I want to know it was made by a company who is not only wanting to be sustainable, but is authentically “eco-efficient” as well. I appreciate when I am nourished rather than filled with junk food. Marketing and advertising (communications) are teaching methods, and ultimately, we (the consumer students) can tell when our food is unhealthy. If companies changed the kind of products they produced, then a trend of positive consumerism would ensue—people would WANT to buy more products because they would feel they were making the world a better place by doing so.

Advertising must authentically guide consumers toward the products that will help nourish and restore balance to our global society. We so desperately want to do “right” by the world—we just need advertising we can trust to show us how.


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