Let’s Create Believers not Consumers

Let’s Create Believers not Consumers


I think we can accept that our culture of consumption is broken. We consume so much that we are destroying our very home and having a profoundly negative effect on our mental health. We’re in a bad way, but how do we shift things?

It’s the basic premise of marketing to create a consumer. But this only exists if the basic purpose of the business is to create profit. If instead your purpose as a business is to be part of the solution (to the problems we face as a society), then the basic premise of marketing becomes how to create belief in solving these problems together. Belief in a brand’s mission to be sustainable, to make the world a better place. Instead of creating consumers, we create believers. We create believers in sustainability and then we offer sustainable solutions i.e. what people need (not want) to meet that belief. Profit comes as a byproduct of the belief-driven purpose.

What might this look like? Could Apple’s model shift to also keeping existing hardware alive as long as possible – the same way Patagonia does for clothes? Or could TopShop move their focus into the ethical and upcycled fashion market? Or could McDonalds launch a vegan / meat substitute range and ultimately ditch meat? Or could Sofa.com only sell sofas with changeable covers? They probably won’t? But if they don’t, then someone else will. Yes of course this new approach means less profit but if you’re still wedded to the supremacy of profit and shareholder returns, then you’ve really missed the point.

The writing is already on the wall. Times are changing very, very quickly. Many large brands are suffering from too-large-to-change syndrome. Just hope it all goes away. It won’t. It’s time to change the essence of the consumer lifestyle culture that has been packaged and sold for so long by brands. But we can’t look to the established brands, instead it’s the new wave of brands that now have the capacity to disrupt, as their whole business models can be built ground up on new cultural principles. It’s not an impossible ask – only 15 years ago the top 4 brands in the world were either worth little or didn’t exist. $600 billion of value. Think what we could do with that if it was harnessed to a greater common purpose and good.

In every single sector of business, there are dynamic start-ups driving this new model of belief-driven sustainable consumption. Some we like include Halo’s recyclable coffee pods, Veja’s flavour of the summer sustainable trainers, Elephant box’s built for life containers, Rebel Kitchen’s bold attitude. Brilliant, smart brands focussed on solutions. The best young minds want to work for companies who are part of the solution not the dinosaur businesses who are only paying lip-service. I mean which truly switched on graduate now would want a job at Facebook?

Everyone has a responsibility to the planet. We and the planet are the same thing. We happen to have KFC and Whatsapp but we’ve lost touch with this simple fact. Every one of us can choose whether the businesses we work for are part of the solution or part of the problem. Grow them, change them, don’t sell them to the dinosaurs, team up, build a new model, build believers and belief in change.

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