Are Marketers to Blame for Over-Consumption? (An Essay on Marketing vs. Consumerism)

Two months ago, I wrote a post entitled: The Story of Stuff – What Kind of Consumer Have You Become. I must be psychic, because it perfectly foreshadowed an essay I would later write in one of my classes. Yesterday, as I watched a compelling video on embedding principles of the web within management models for the 21st century, I decided I would post my essay online to share. That, and I thought it would be a great idea to bring up after the busiest shopping season of the year. In 2012, one of my goals is to extensively manage my personal finances.

The topic: 

‘In many ways marketing is often seen as the antithesis of the concept of sustainability. One is seen by many as one of the principal drivers of consumption while the other seeks to “enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations.”’ (Jones, Clarke-Hill, Comfort and Hillier, 2008). Take a position for or against this statement and defend it.

I do not usually take a position in my papers, but my paper below is an exception. It was a 1000 word assignment that I did for fun in a class (“choose 5 of 6 assignments to do” type thing), so it’s a tad more informal than most papers. Enjoy!

Short Essay – Sustainability 

In today’s world, it is difficult to negate the fact that marketers are constantly bombarding consumers. From the moment a consumer wakes up, he or she is faced with multiple stimuli. From the logos on toothpaste to the cereal boxes at breakfast, a morning cup of coffee from the nearby franchise then greets us as we drive by in our branded car and wear our branded clothing to our offices, which are filled with similar people who have experienced similar stimuli as ourselves. In addition to this, the media reminds consumers to buy more, and both malls and big box stores are constantly reminding shoppers which season it is or which holiday is coming next. This frequent cycle causes one to question whether or not traditions and societal norms are, in fact, fuelling consumerism.  If so, then would we, as consumers, be victims of our own debts? Is it really marketing that is affecting consumerism or are consumers not taking more responsibility in making purchases to only meet their needs? Nowadays, sustainability marketing is, in turn, reminding consumers to “enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life without compromising the quality of life of future generations.” (Jones, Clarke-Hill, Comfort and Hillier, 2008).

Marketers are, in fact, reminding consumers which season it is and which holidays are occurring, but when consumers continue to fuel these norms and fall into the trap of consumerism, one cannot blame the marketers. It could even be said that consumers almost expect marketers to remind them of these re-occurring annual holidays, and it would be absurd if these expectations were not met. Some marketers do play a large part in fuelling consumerism; however, there is an increasing emergence of social marketers who are informing the public about consumerism and the importance of making educated purchases. This is especially true at a time when the demand for raising awareness about sustainability and a “global social community” is rising.

Social entrepreneurship is becoming more and more popular and the way people meet their needs are changing. Despite this, most consumers are still focused on themselves and their own benefits (and temporary immediate gratifications) that they tend to adopt a model of life where “ignorance is bliss” when it comes to thinking about sustainability. Sooner or later, these consumers will realize that this kind of overconsumption is more harmful than beneficial. The problem in society right now is that the general population is not educated enough on these issues, and with this lack of awareness, people are unable to change their beliefs and attitudes, which is what will influence their behaviors (towards more sustainable actions and choices.) Marketing is needed to convey these messages, and more social and responsible marketing – marketing that informs consumers or conveys messages that are intended to communicate and promote products and services that benefit society – will reinforce the message.

To a marketer, profits will always be the goal of their clients and the companies they work for. The most frequent questions asked, include:

“How do I make my product better than my competitors? Which needs are we going to meet of our target market? What needs to be done to increase our profits? How can we decrease our costs?”

According to an online video, “The Story of Stuff,” narrated by Anne Leonard, a strong proponent of sustainability and an activist, there are strategic plans to encourage spending and promote consumption over time. Some examples of this include: the frequent changes in fashion trends, the way technology is designed so new technology can quickly replace older technologies, the types of materials used to create products so they breakdown easily and need to be replaced, etc. In addition, the stereotypical consumer has many of the following traits: he or she consistently listens to early adopters, is looking up to trendsetters, and reading up on the latest tips to stay “on top of their game.” Social influence continues to be strong. At what point does one put their foot down and learn to be his or her own person? Not only will marketing play a big role in conveying this message, consumers also need to be more susceptible to change and to recognize the negative impacts of their own actions.

In a society where global warming is becoming an issue and climate change is no longer just a buzzword, consumer patterns need to change – it is not a marketer’s fault. The way we meet our needs is changing, and consumers, nowadays, are becoming more educated. Consumers care about their purchases and are well informed about the products they spend their hard-earned money on (especially when the unemployment rate is high). There is a higher involvement with day-to-day purchases and people are much more conscious about their health and the effects of individual actions towards the global community than before. This is not yet the majority, but this population is growing. Marketers recognize this too and corporations have already begun to shift their images through Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable business practices, and running campaigns that speak directly to these concerns.

New technologies are emerging and effecting extraction, manufacturing, and disposal; meanwhile, product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter. The increasing mention of “innovation and creativity” is essential to introducing new products into society, and is subsequently bringing more efficient and smart technologies into our daily lives. For entrepreneurs, it will be important to create a unique product that both improves the way of life and can be embedded into one’s day-to-day lifestyle. These ideas are slowly transforming the way we live and interact, and marketing plays a significant role.

Furthermore, competition is necessary; society reaps its benefits, producers are forced to innovate at a whole new level (pushing research more than ever), and consumers are almost forced to educate themselves. Marketing is not the antithesis of sustainability, but a powerful driving force that will change the mindset of the general population and inflict upon greater societal change.


3 thoughts on “Are Marketers to Blame for Over-Consumption? (An Essay on Marketing vs. Consumerism)

  1. Pingback: [Opinion] What Does Valentine’s Day Really Mean – Part 2 « tyw lifestyle blog

  2. Pingback: [Opinion] What Does Valentine’s Day Really Mean – Part 2 « tyw lifestyle blog

  3. Pingback: [Healthy Living - Part I] All About Food – Eating, Cooking, Groceries, Organics | tyw lifestyle blog

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