“Dressed up” marketing

I’m an unabashed believer in free market enterprise. For all it’s faults and foibles, I believe it’s the avenue for everyone from individuals to global communities to create better lives for themselves. (For a great perspective on the impact of market economies on economic and social progress,  try Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist.)

That said, I’m not without serious reservations about two trends in marketing products that I find borderline fraudulent and downright creepy.

The first is what I call the environmental angle on a product. I’m not talking about products with obvious waste reduction, re-usability or re-cycling features. And if it’s truly a case of a product having one or more of those features, it’s either obvious on the face of it, or the statement about how it’s environmentally “responsible”, amounts to no more than a sentence in concrete terms. What I’m talking about is a plethora of products that are touted as “green”, “eco-friendly” and “smart”, all entirely without any tangible explanation as to what eco-benefit they provide. Often, it’s merely packaging “cues” or naming that (indirectly) touts the benefit.

Since I’m not a fan of ever-increasing government regulation to police the legitimacy of marketing practices, my only suggestion is that consumers ask themselves the simple question “how?” when an eco-angle is being pushed. If the benefit is impossible to discern, trivial or (as is often the case) non-existent, steer clear of buying it. Otherwise, you’re just legitimizing this cheap and superficial con-job.

The other is the “portion of proceeds” to (some vaguely-worded) cause angle. Dorothy Hamil is flogging her new jewelry line as a way of “giving back” for her recovery from cancer. Oddly, there is no mention of how much giving “back” will occur or who (other than Dorothy’s bank account) will benefit. Feel free to call the emperor on such (transparent) marketing tactics.

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