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Sustainability marketing myopia is a term used in sustainability marketing referring to a distortion stemming from the overlooking of socio-environmental attributes of a sustainable product or service at the expenses of customer benefits and values.Sustainability marketing is oriented towards the whole community, its social goals and the protection of the environment. It requires the engagement of national and local governments, organisations and population as well as the necessary capital (human, financial, infrastructural, etc.). The idea of sustainability marketing myopia is rooted into conventional marketing myopia theory, as well as green marketing myopia.
The marketing myopia theory was originally proposed in 1960 by American economist Theodore Levitt. According to Levitt marketers should not overlook the importance of company potential and product attributes at the expenses of market needs; catering for market needs should receive first priority.
A company, besides being technically sound and product oriented, also needs to be customer oriented in order to successfully cater for a market. Knowledge of customer needs and of innovations that can be implemented to maintain customer interest, as well as of how to adapt to the changing business market is crucial.
Marketing myopia has been highly influential in the formation of modern marketing theory, and was heeded by marketers to such an extent that some authors now speak of a “new marketing myopia” stemming from too narrow a focus on customer to the exclusion of other stakeholders.
Green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe.In order to be successful, green marketing must fulfill two objectives: improved environmental quality and customer satisfaction. Misjudging either or overemphasizing the former at the expense of the latter can be defined as green marketing myopia.
The marketing discipline has long argued that innovation must consider an intimate understanding of the customerand a close look at green marketing practices over time reveals that green products must be positioned on a consumer value sought by targeted consumers.
As such, successful green products are able to appeal to mainstream consumers or lucrative market niches and frequently command price premiums by offering “non-green” consumer value (such as convenience and performance). When consumers are convinced of the desirable “non-green” benefits of environmental products, they are more inclined to adopt them.
Aside from offering environmental benefits that do not meet consumer preferences, green marketing myopia can also occur when green products fail to provide credible, substantive environmental benefits.
Sustainability marketing aims at marketing sustainable products and services which “satisfy customer needs and significantly improve the social and environmental performance along the whole life cycle”,while increasing customer value and achieving the company's objectives. In turns, sustainability marketing myopia is an exaggerated focus on the socio-ecological attributes of the product over the core consumer values, a distortion of the marketing process which is likely to lead to the product failing on the market or remaining confined in a small alternative niche.
Just as an excessive focus on product attributes generates marketing myopia, and just as a single-minded focus on customers results in “new marketing myopia”, in both green and sustainability marketing an unbalanced strategy neglecting one aspect (namely, product attributes) is detrimental to the effectiveness of the marketing process.
However, it is important to note that sustainability marketing myopia differs from green marketing myopia in that the former follows a broader approach to the marketing myopia issue, taking into account the social attributes of a product, as well as the environmental ones. At the same time, sustainability marketing myopia encompasses sustainable services and product-related services,not products alone.
Generally, sustainability marketing myopia can be avoided in two ways:
Ottman et al.provides examples of successful marketing communications based on the highlighting of inherent consumer’s values of the socio-ecological features of products, and on bundling:
|Value||Message and business product|
|Efficiency and cost effectiveness|
|Health and safety|
Besides striking a right balance of focus between product attributes and consumers’ benefits, sustainability marketers should also avoid employing unsubstantive claims about the socio-environmental benefits of their products.This particular form of marketing myopia is best avoided by building an image of credibility for the brand through effective sustainability communication, so that consumers can easily associate their products with sound socio-environmental performances.
According to the authors of Natural Capitalism “product dematerialisation” is one of the prerequisites for a more sustainable business model. In order to become more sustainable the future economy will transform from “sale of goods” to the “sale of services”.Belz and Peattie also stress the role of services as a part of sustainable solution, talking of product-related, use-oriented and result-oriented services. Product-related services are offered additionally and they optimize the product use, e.g. automobile companies offering courses on a more ecological and safe driving manner. In the case of use-oriented services, a service and not a product is sold to the consumer e.g. car-sharing. As for result-oriented services, consumers neither own nor operate a product e. g. public transportation, with consumers only enjoying the outcome of the product, the transportation services.
“Product dematerialisation” is, too, at risk of incurring in sustainability marketing myopia. In 1999 Electrolux piloted an use-oriented sustainable “pay-per-wash” service in Sweden, failing to succeed because of a myopic marketing approach. New energy and water efficient washing machines were distributed by Electrolux among consumers. Electrolux supplied customers with maintenance services through a central database via the Internet and took care of the disposal and upgrading of the machines. Consumers did not pay for the machines themselves; they were only charged with a small installation fee at the beginning, and through a pay-per-wash charging system (10 Swedish kronor (about 1 $) per wash). However, an excessive emphasis on the green component in the marketing of this service, achieved at the expenses of other consumer benefits and values, failed to convince the consumers.According to A. Ottmann et al. not only environmental but also other inherent consumer values should have been better marketed by Electrolux: convenience of pay-per-wash, including easy trade-ins for upgrades, free service and saved money of a new washing machine. In addition, the sustainable service might have been successful if pay-per-wash convenience would have been bundled with more desirable features.
The initial idea of introducing the Fairtrade coffee certification was to abolish poverty among coffee farmers and their workers by supporting better working conditions and enabling growers to compete in the global market.For this reason, Fairtrade coffee started to be acquired directly from the farmers for a higher price than standard coffee. A minimum price for coffee is guaranteed and if the market prices outreach the minimum, growers receive a premium. In compliance with rising consumers´ demand for environmentally and social beneficial products the Fairtrade certification appears to be an evident indicator. Products marked with the label have to meet standards ensuring that strict social and environmental measures are taken.
The first generation of Fairtrade coffee suffered from sustainability marketing myopia. First, due to the exaggerated focus on the socio-ecological aspects the quality and the taste of the coffee were put into the background. Most coffee farmers used to sell their coffee to both Fairtrade and open markets. As the price in the open market is entirely defined by quality, farmers sold their better quality beans in that market and then squandered their poorer beans into the Fairtrade market, where they were nonetheless ensured a good price. Furthermore, the certainty that Fairtrade buyers would mix supplies together discouraged farmers to improve the quality of their own beans without having any financial reward for that.
Furthermore, Fairtrade coffee failed to guarantee the social and environmental benefits to the consumer as covenant.Moreover, Fairtrade has been accused of misleading consumers about its ability to monitor production practices, with particular regards to salary conditions of temporary workers.
The first generation Fairtrade coffee with a worse quality and bitter taste failed to satisfy all customers´ needs and supposedly to improve the social performance along the whole life cycle of the product.
As well as Electrolux and Fairtrade coffee suppliers, the producers of green buildings in Western Europe suffered from sustainability marketing myopia in the experimental stages of energy-efficient houses. Companies focussed on the energy-efficient attributes of the houses at the expenses of cost-effectiveness and affordability, marketing their products on the basis of intergenerational equity, ecology and energy-savings.In addition, further inherent consumer values as comfort and design were also ignored at these early stages.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of the twenty-first century marketers from construction companies have improved their strategies. Successful sustainability marketing concepts have been progressively adopted, including motive alliances and the use of a new marketing mix based on so-called 4 Cs: consumer solution, consumer cost, communication and convenience.This new approach has fostered a rise in the market share of energy-efficient houses.
81Fünf Holzbau is an example of such a company applying successful marketing strategies. It is a fast expanding German company which focuses on energy-efficient wooden houses. Conventional criteria as high-quality levels and comfort are aligned with sustainable components in the company marketing communication: healthy indoor environment created by using natural woods, energy savings and security from future oil price rises are among the arguments used.Their interactive online toolkit “Energy Comfort House” allows to easily calculate the life cycle cost and savings compared to conventional houses and acts, therefore, as a credibility tool. In order to offer the broadest choice in terms of consumer solutions, different house models are provided to various customer target groups according to their environmental consciousness and affordability.
Fair trade is an institutional arrangement designed to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions. Members of the fair trade movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improved social and environmental standards. The movement focuses in particular on commodities, or products which are typically exported from developing countries to developed countries, but also consumed in domestic markets most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, wine, sugar, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold. The movement seeks to promote greater equity in international trading partnerships through dialogue, transparency, and respect. It promotes sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers in developing countries. Fair trade is grounded in three core beliefs; first, producers have the power to express unity with consumers. Secondly, the world trade practices that currently exist promote the unequal distribution of wealth between nations. Lastly, buying products from producers in developing countries at a fair price is a more efficient way of promoting sustainable development than traditional charity and aid.
Market segmentation is the activity of dividing a broad consumer or business market, normally consisting of existing and potential customers, into sub-groups of consumers based on some type of shared characteristics.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a type of international private business self-regulation that aims to contribute to societal goals of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature by engaging in or supporting volunteering or ethically-oriented practices. While once it was possible to describe CSR as an internal organisational policy or a corporate ethic strategy, that time has passed as various international laws have been developed and various organisations have used their authority to push it beyond individual or even industry-wide initiatives. While it has been considered a form of corporate self-regulation for some time, over the last decade or so it has moved considerably from voluntary decisions at the level of individual organisations, to mandatory schemes at regional, national and international levels.
The Fairtrade Foundation is a charity based in the United Kingdom that works to empower disadvantaged producers in developing countries by tackling injustice in conventional trade, in particular by promoting and licensing the Fairtrade Mark, a guarantee that products retailed in the UK have been produced in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade standards. The Foundation is the British member of FLO International, which unites FLO-CERT, 25 National Fairtrade Organisations and 3 Producer Networks across Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Green brands are those brands that consumers associate with environmental conservation and sustainable business practices.
Sustainability advertising is communications geared towards promoting social, economic and environmental benefits of products, services or actions through paid advertising in media in order to encourage responsible behavior of consumers.
The International Fairtrade Certification Mark is an independent certification mark used in over 50 countries. It appears on products as an independent guarantee that a product has been produced according to Fairtrade political standards.
Fair Trade USA, formerly "TransFair USA", is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, that sets standards, certifies, and labels products that promote sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers and protect the environment.
Green marketing is the marketing of products that are presumed to be environmentally safe. It incorporates a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, sustainable packaging, as well as modifying advertising. Yet defining green marketing is not a simple task where several meanings intersect and contradict each other; an example of this will be the existence of varying social, environmental and retail definitions attached to this term. Other similar terms used are environmental marketing and ecological marketing.
Fairtrade Canada, formerly TransFair Canada, is a national non-profit certification and public education organization promoting Fairtrade certified products in Canada to improve the livelihood of developing world farmers and workers. It is the Canadian member of FLO International, which unites 24 fair trade producer and certification initiatives across Europe, Asia, Latin America, North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
The fair trade debate is a debate surrounding the ethics and alleged economic implications of fair trade as well as alleged issues with the Fairtrade brand. Some criticisms have been raised about fair trade systems. One 2015 study in a journal published by the MIT Press concluded that producer benefits were close to zero because there was an oversupply of certification, and only a fraction of produce classified as Fair Trade was actually sold on Fair Trade markets, just enough to recoup the costs of certification. A study published by the Journal of Economic Perspecitives however suggests that Fair Trade does achieve many of its intended goals, although on a comparatively modest scale relative to the size of national economies. Some research indicates that the implementation of certain fair trade standards can cause greater inequalities in some markets where these rigid rules are inappropriate for the specific market. In the fair trade debate, there are complaints of failure to enforce the fair trade standards, with producers, cooperatives, importers and packers profiting by evading them.
Jacquelyn A. Ottman is a New York City-based consultant specializing in sustainability strategy, green marketing, and eco-innovation. She is the author or co-author of four books on green marketing, including The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding. She has advised Fortune 500 companies, including GE, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble, along with the United States Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Label She blogs at GreenMarketing.com and at WeHateToWaste.com.
Fair trade coffee is coffee that is certified as having been produced to fair trade standards by fair trade organizations, which create trading partnerships that are based on dialogue, transparency and respect, with the goal of achieving greater equity in international trade. These partnerships contribute to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to coffee bean farmers. Fair trade organizations support producers and sustainable environmental farming practices and prohibit child labor or forced labor.
Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary, usually third party-assessed, norms and standards relating to environmental such as IFGICT Standard, social, ethical and food safety issues, adopted by companies to demonstrate the performance of their organizations or products in specific areas. There are over 400 such standards across the world. The trend started in the late 1980s and 90s with the introduction of Ecolabels and standards for Organic food and other products. Most standards refer to the triple bottom line of environmental quality, social equity, and economic prosperity. A standard is normally developed by a broad range of stakeholders and experts in a particular sector and includes a set of practices or criteria for how a crop should be sustainably grown or a resource should be ethically harvested. This might cover, for instance, responsible fishing practices that don't endanger marine biodiversity, or respect for human rights and the payment of fair wages on a coffee or tea plantation. Normally sustainability standards are accompanied by a verification process - often referred to as "certification" - to evaluate that an enterprise complies with a standard, as well as a traceability process for certified products to be sold along the supply chain, often resulting in a consumer-facing label. Certification programmes also focus on capacity building and working with partners and other organisations to support smallholders or disadvantaged producers to make the social and environmental improvements needed to meet the standard.
Sustainability brands are products and services that are branded to signify a special added value in terms of environmental and social benefits to the customer and thus enable the differentiation from competitors.
Sustainable products are those products that provide environmental, social and economic benefits while protecting public health and environment over their whole life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials until the final disposal.
Sustainable distribution refers to any means of transportation / hauling of goods between vendor and purchaser with lowest possible impact on the ecological and social environment, and includes the whole distribution process from storage, order processing and picking, packaging, improved vehicle loadings, delivery to the customer or purchaser and taking back packaging.
Sustainable consumer behavior is the sub discipline of consumer behavior that studies why and how consumers do or do not incorporate sustainability issues into their consumption behavior. Further, it studies the products that consumers select, how those products are used and how they are disposed of in pursuit of their individual sustainability goals.
Sustainable services as components of sustainable strategies and operations basically are offerings that decrease negative environmental impact while providing improved social and environmental benefits to consumers and producers.
Customer cost refers not only to the price of a product, but it also encompasses the purchase costs, use costs and the post-use costs. Purchase costs consist of the cost of searching for a product, gathering information about the product and the cost of obtaining that information. Usually, the highest use costs arise for durable goods that have a high demand on resources, such as energy or water, or those with high maintenance costs. Post-use costs encompass the costs for collecting, storing and disposing of the product once the item has been discarded.