It seems that the Indian youth doesn’t find Sustainability to be either hot, exciting or desirable! Let’s see why.
Yesterday, The Economic Times newspaper featured a list of 100 Most Exciting Brands in India today. Exciting…in the eyes of the India’s youth (15-24 year olds), which was the survey representation.
This is a very real mainstream example of how advertising affects consumerism in India today – exactly what Pavan Sukhdev talks about “Accountable Advertising” in his book Corporation 2020. The top 12 brands in India incidentally (as far I have seen on TV/print) speak nothing about protecting the planet, climate change or their sustainability efforts – even if they are serious on these issues. Why? Because they don’t think sustainability or protecting the climate is exciting! That’s why.
And if brands don’t think sustainability to be exciting, then how can you expect the young consumers to find it exciting! None of the brands project an image related to environment or climate change.
The Brand Equity and Neilsen research identified the following six attributes that the youth looks at:
- “This brand sets the owner or user apart as a trendsetter”
- “This is a brand to aspire for”
- “This brand is fun/lively”
- “This brand has got style”
- “This brand does exciting advertisements/ events /communication”
- “This brand is edgy/irreverent”
Apparently climate change is absent from these attributes and all of 6 attributes are related to advertising.
Advertising is a mass manipulation tool with advertisers being viewed no better than telemarketers in terms of ethics and honesty. And yet, the unfortunate part is that advertising plays such an influential role in promoting consumerism – good or bad, regardless
of the impact on the society or consumers.
So, it becomes utterly urgent and important for these brands that they make climate change a major part of their advertising campaigns, if at all the youth of the country is to be educated about sustainble business practices.
As much as Coca Cola and Pepsi are doing their part in water conservation, Nokia with their product takeback and Apple and Samsung with dematerialization techniques – brands that feature in the top 12 – none of these efforts will see any returns unless the consumers reward such practices but the lack of awareness becomes a hinderance.
It is clear from this survey that the youth rewards brands that have style, that are edgy, hot, lively and that are something to aspire for – they don’t necessarily reward brands that are sustaianble and care for the planet.
Unless you tell the consumer about sustainability efforts, unless you ask questions in the survey’s about environment and climate change, how will you make being sustainable desirable?
The current sustaianbility efforts by some brands may well become a mere lip service, something that’s a business imperative today and not necessarily a responsible company initiative.
Brands need to advertise and broadcast this to the youth if brands want responsible consumption, which I don’t see happening in the Indian context. When I look at brands, I don’t look at them at their face value, I see the extent of resource extraction done in order to make their end products – and see whether they are filling a genuine need or creating a superfluous demand – that’s how I evaluate the brands.
What I’d really like to see is that Coca Cola and Pepsi labelling on their drinks the amount of water (2 liters) required to make 1 litre of drink. That Adidas labelling in their shoes and garments, the amount of water used (700 liters) to make a medium sized cotton T shirt. That Apple and Samsung labelling the amount of minerals mined in Africa and other places with resulting bio-diversity losses in making their smart phones.
I bet, consumers will automatically become more responsible in what they buy and the attributes as what they deem to be an “Exciting Brand” may very well change!
(Images scanned from 2Jan 2013 Brand Equity – Economic Times newspaper)
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