Can Marketers encourage Responsible Consumption?

23 Apr,2020


By Avik Chattopadhyay


A friend of mine shared an incident in the midst of this lockdown. As the person who irons the clothes of people her locality is out of work right now, each house has decided to continue paying her what they typically did every week. On her second week’s round, my friend asked her, “Do you need some more money? Rice?” “No didi, we have enough!”


“Have enough!”

Now, how many times have we heard these words in the positive sense? How many times have we just passed by a store telling ourselves that we have enough shirts, tops, suits, jeans, shoes and belts? How many times have we made our kids realise that the weekly trip to a fast food joint is not really lifesaving? How many times have we just told ourselves that we have enough?


A meme doing the rounds these days carries a statement – “It’s funny how the world economy is about to collapse just because people are buying only what they really need.” Hope all of us sharing and forwarding this meme realise its implications once the lockdown is gradually lifted. Quite a few of my friends have been busy making “lists” of things to buy the moment ‘freedom’ is announced. They range from stocking up on medicines to single malts! They are all foreseeing another lockdown soon and therefore do not want to be caught napping, literally. Its quite a scary thought, is it not? The buying tsunami that would happen! Consumables, brown goods, white goods, winter wear, beer, cigarettes, frozen food and what not. We will surely have forgotten that meme!


Hoarding is primarily a human trait.

The rest of the animal kingdom does not believe in it unless it is for hibernation or winter.

Us social animals always want to have more than what we immediately need. For we have ‘wants’ and ‘desires’. Stuff that the marketers salivate about. And survive on.


So, as the world wakes up to a new “normal” as everyone keeps talking about, will the marketers wake up too? Or will it be business as usual? Will the new normal be a fresh fundamental of consuming responsibly?


Responsible Consumption.”

It’s when the one who can afford to consume more consciously decides to curb purchasing beyond what is ‘needed’. It is to gradually control the wants and the desires of physical ownership and consumption.


How about waking up to a new India where marketers are actually encouraging responsible consumption? They are driving the much-needed consciousness through their communication, promotions and incentives. They have redefined their business not merely on numbers but on usage, lifecycle management and a slightly higher price point too, in some cases. Imagine…


Maruti Suzuki gives a loyalty bonus only if you retain your vehicle for at least 4 years. And waives off servicing charges on any True Value purchase for 24 months, to encourage reuse of vehicles.


Raymond’s gives you a cashback once you have used the same blazer or suit or jacket for five years. They also have a tie-up with to help you stay in shape.


Apple decides not to launch any new device for the next 12 months asking their customers to maximise the use of what they already have. And they will sell a new device to an Apple customer only if the current one has been used for at least 3 years.


MakeMyTrip gives additional bonus points for not actually taking a holiday trip this financial year. Also, huge MMT Black rewards for holiday trips made every second year outside of the usual tourist spots.


Coca-Cola decides to reduce production of aerated beverages by 30% and promote more water and fruit pulp-based drinks. Also, it decides not to advertise any aerated beverage on mass media or social media.


SBI chips in with their own token contributions to the ones you make to a list of social causes. Also, your loyalty points add up more if you make lesser trips to the ATM.


Samsung waives off 3 EMIs of all loan takers on their white goods if they promise to use them for 12 months more than planned, subject to a minimum of 48 months.


Bajaj starts a rental programme across their entire network where the Dominar and Chetak are available on a “pay per-use” basis. One need not own or borrow a Bajaj to enjoy it. Just needs to officially rent one from a dealership.


McDonald’s does away with their ‘combo’ meals and encourages people to eat right and light, exactly as they want. They will have no incentives for bundling items. The Happy Meal however will stay for the kids.


Tata finally decides what exactly to do with the Nano – relaunch it as a new-India smart mobility choice, in an electric avatar, with an AI-based algorithm that keeps crediting points into the customer’s account based on the times at least three people travel at a time.


Finally, the Government of India decides that on the next emergency, it shall not ask for any contribution to the PM National Relief Fund or create something like PM-CARES as it will redeploy existing resources from unnecessary and low-priority expenditure rather than emotionally burden the citizen’s wallet.


The challenge of instilling responsible consumption has to be taken up by the market leaders rather than the challengers. Leadership has to be seen to consciously shed its ‘greed’ for greater good.


Am I day-dreaming? Between the dystopia of today and the utopia I paint, society shall definitely move to a situation better than yesterday. And there will surely be a few marketers with their hearts in the right place who will take the first steps. As Lennon had remarked, I may not be the only dreamer…



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