Corporate Marketers Be Aware: Scan the Environment with Care!

hcane.jpgCould hurricane Katrina be a classic case of “Blowback” to the Bush Administration’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol? From a marketing standpoint it is, and we see the President’s advisors and PR people working overtime to re-brand and market him as the strong leader amid disaster. The results of this effort we will have to wait and see.
Corporate America though appears to not want to wait and see in regards to climate change. And it’s doing so for good reasons.

Avoiding the risk of looking complacent like the president currently is is one reason; the other is that it is good for the long term sustainability of the firm and the stability of society as well. A news story was just released by Reuters titled “US Companies Weighting Climate Risks” that alludes to this fact.
The story in itself is helping publicize (market) the cause of the Kyoto Protocol and is putting the pressure on corporate America to show leadership. This is a new thing for American companies and they still need to figure out where and how they will deal with it. Perhaps one place to start is at the marketing department itself.
Kotler and Keller in the 12th edition of the classic text Marketing Management say that “Gathering Information and Scanning the Environment” are critical first steps in developing a Marketing strategy. Done right, this step will have to include scanning the Social-Cultural Environment where news stories such as the one alluded to here come to rest (or roost). If people know that there is a strong possibility that the climate is being altered by human activity, this affects their view of nature and of the universe. Understanding what this means can be critical to a company’s bottom line. Under such a scenario, there is a strong possibility that people would be supportive of a solution that is being offered to them directly or indirectly. Toyota understood this and The Prius hybrid is a good example of a direct solution offered towards the unsustainable reliance on fossil fuel. Toyota’s CEO just announced that he has directed his chief engineer to find a way to cut in half the price difference between the hybrid and similar gasoline models (USA Today, Sept 13).
Scanning Environmental Forces is another area where natural forces can be factored into the equation. This information helps senior management decide what is a fad, a trend or a mega trend. Such information must have been forecasted by Wal-Mart evidenced their immediate stocking in stores of products that were in high demand during disasters (in addition to offering financial assistance and publicizing it by constant press releases with updates from the disaster zone).
The main theme here for marketers scanning the environment to gather information is that the environment itself along with its effect on society, economies and people can no longer be ignored. The marketing department of a corporation is the portal from where such a message can find real meaning –and rewards– if paid attention to.

One response

  1. I think you’re right about the importance of taking into account realistic considerations of climate change and environmental risks – but be careful about Katrina. There is absolutely no proof that the current severity of hurricanes is caused by global warming, human induced or otherwise.
    There is proof, however, that things like dredging the Mississippi have reduced sediment buildup that *might* have weaked the storm somewhat. It’s also true that shoddy environmental policy in other areas has a deleterious effect on health, happiness and economy . But at this point in time, I think it’s BS to start telling people driving a Prius will prevent hurricanes – and a marketer that does so is likely to have his bluff called!

Leave a Reply