Patagonia lives by its strong environmentalist values. Now it has produced a new short (23 minutes) film, “that outlines the fight undertaken by the Communities for a Better Environment group as it lobbies city council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to establish a 2,500-foot distance between oil drilling operations and Wilmington’s schools, hospitals, and churches.” (Fast Company, February 27, 2020) The film differs from many of Patagonia’s typical outdoor images — as this one focuses on the challenge to a community in Los Angeles that is home to 479 oil wells. It might be interesting to watch or assign the film to your students and ask them why Patagonia does this? If you know Patagonia, and watched some of its previous promotional efforts, the answer is not immediately obvious. They really do it because they support the environment and they believe this is the right thing to do. It does burnish their brand and it is authentic, too.
Another #M4BW (Marketing for a Better World) Monday post. Out of the World Economic Forum, former Volvo CEO Pehr Gyllenhammar wrote this op-ed at CNN Business, “I brought socially conscious change to Volvo without hurting profits. Other CEOs cab do the same,” (January 22, 2020). I hope that headline alone lures you into the article and a discussion with your students.
Regular readers, and those who have already seen the 17th edition of Essentials of Marketing know that we believe business can contribute to making a better, more sustainable world — without necessarily sacrificing profits in the process. Barron’s recently posted an article on this topic, and while the real thing is behind a paywall, I found this copy online (I hope it lasts there for your review).
After Barron‘s ranked the 100 most sustainable companies (#1 Texas Instruments), it compared their stock market returns in 2019 (+34.5%) with those of the S&P 500 (+31.5%). The article is optimistic that this trend will continue. Why? Some of the reasons given in the article include:
- These companies attract employees — people want to work there,
- They are better at employee retention,
- Good environmental policies lower costs,
- Customers want to do business with these companies,
- Investors want to buy into sustainable companies.
The Internet of Things (IOT), which we cover in one of our What’s Next? boxes (see Chapter 8) offers some promising consumer benefits. IOT connects devices (your sprinkler system, coffee pot, thermostat, and more) to the Internet. From there, the devices get smart — so for example, your sprinkler system sees there is a 90% chance of rain today and so it doesn’t water the lawn for the next three days. Yet there are tradeoffs as consumers lose privacy. This short (less than 3 minute) Bloomberg video can be assigned to students or shown in class to stimulate discussion. It might work well with Chapter 8 as you discuss Product or in Chapters 7 or 19 where we dig more deeply into privacy.
Budweiser has a history of creative and amusing Super Bowl ads but this year’s ad which centered on their competitor’s use of corn syrup has definitely been the most controversial ad of the year and one that continues to garner headlines. By the way, the ad is a great example of the comparative class of competitive advertisements. The ad sparked a Twitter war between MillerCoors and AB InBev and the latest development is a lawsuit filed by MillerCoors against AB InBev.
You might ask how MillerCoors can sue if they do in fact use corn syrup in their brewing process (which they do). MillerCoors conducted focus groups and through those groups they determined that most consumers don’t know the difference between corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup which are two different products. They claim the Bud Light ad deliberately confuses and frightens consumers into thinking the unhealthy high fructose corn syrup is an ingredient in Miller and Coors products. In reality the corn syrup is used in the brewing process but during fermentation it is broken down by yeast and leaves no corn syrup in the final product. It’s also worth noting that Anheuser-Busch uses corn syrup themselves in some of their other products but they don’t use it when brewing Bud Light (which uses rice instead). You can read more about the lawsuit and MillerCoors’ claims in this NY times article.
The lawsuit and continued objections from MillerCoors suggests Bud Light’s campaign was (and is) effective but it also brings up an interesting marketing ethics question. Is Bud Light’s commercial ethical? If their statement is factual should they be allowed to advertise that point of differentiation? Should they consider the fact that consumers would likely misinterpret the message or is that not their problem?