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Marketing Re-Imagined: Less is More

3p is proud to partner with the Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course on a blogging series about “sustainable marketing.” This post is part of that series. To follow along, please click here.

By Joey Christiano

Desperate times call for new paradigms:  According to 350.org, right now we are at 392 parts per million of CO2 in our atmosphere – and we need to be at 350 or less to prevent catastrophic climate instability.  Getting back down to 350 parts per million will take nothing short of a miracle.  Among many other things, it will involve marketing.

Marketing is 'the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.' But the problem with marketing in its current state is that selling more stuff is what’s gotten us into this climate mess. More stuff means more greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s not a viable long-term strategy.

Could we re-imagine marketing so that it creates value by selling less stuff? Let’s shift the paradigm of marketing so it decreases emissions and promotes social good. The marketing I’m talking about isn’t about selling a new product or service; it’s about running campaigns that promote conservation and more efficient resource utilization. Campaigns that engage consumers to get involved and reduce carbon emissions.

Countless people and organizations are already doing this – using marketing in subtle and not so subtle ways to change consumer behavior for social good. Here’s just one example of a company using this re-imagined sense of marketing to promote less consumption while increasing consumer value:

A car that uses visual cues to teach drivers to use less gas: The Toyota Prius.

My fiancé, Liz, wears the driving gloves in our relationship. She zips around in her sporty little red Nissan. One weekend we borrowed my Dad’s 2001 Prius for a road trip. The Prius has a nifty screen on the dashboard that displays a bar graph of how many miles per gallon the car gets over time, and a meter showing the current gas consumption. Liz saw that when she pumped the gas pedal the miles per gallon went down below ten, and when she coasted down hills the miles per gallon went up to 100. She even saw that if she applied the breaks enough a little yellow “E” appeared on the screen, indicating that 50 watt-hours of electricity had been charged back into the battery.

The result was that Liz slowed down and was smoother on the gas pedal. Making for much better fuel economy…as well as a far less terrifying ride. Now when Liz gets into her sporty Nissan she goes easy on the gas, and as a result we’re making fewer trips to the pump.

In my re-imagined sense of marketing, where selling less stuff creates value, Toyota is helping their drivers spend less on gas by giving them the feedback they need to drive more efficiently.

What do you think of my re-imagined vision of marketing? What other examples come to mind?

Want to learn more about Presidio and this project? Click here.

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