"Whoever controls the media, controls the mind" were the written words of the late poet and musician Jim Morrison. A simplistically haunting idea, to think that we may not control our own desires. Every year, every day, every hour we stroll upon advertisements, flowing from magazines, beaming from outdoor signs and flickering from televisions. Thinking that many of these illusionary tools just flutter past our interpretation. But, who really controls this power of propaganda? How much are we a product of the media's influence? How much do advertisements affect our behavior and perceptions?
Advertisers directly influence the media in two ways. First, the advertisers have the ability to suppress the type and the amount of information that we receive. Any propagada that could hinder the image of the sponsor will be completely silenced. Secondly, the media device will cultivate an arena that will allow the sponsor to shine a positive illumination. The television programs that we are exposed to are scientifically placed to capture different degrees of our attention. Sometimes corporate public relations sectors will even air a segment on news stations as a legitimate discovery.
So how much power do corporations hold in affecting the information that we absorb everyday? Statistically up to 85% of the news that American's view is bought and paid for by corporations. How many advertisements are we subjected to every day? "The average American is exposed to at least 3000 ads every day and will spend three years of his or her life watching television commercials. An average of sixteen to seventeen minutes of primetime network television per hour is set aside strictly for advertisements." (Grey). Advertisers even probe into our media outlets from magazines to newspapers to mail. Ads make up about 70% or our newspapers and 40% of our mail. ( Kilbourne)
A large amount of advertiser power lies within the area of disbelief of affection. Propaganda, which is not recognized as propaganda, is the most effective kind. Allowing many of us to laugh, giggle and think that these ads are ridiculous and frivolous. Yet at the same time breaking down our guard, and this is when the advertisement does its job.
Not only are we bombarded by direct advertisements, we are also hit constantly by icons attached to specific products and services. Athletes, politicians, and entertainers are essentially "live products". As a society we mimic, model and create role models of many celebrities. Some of these role models are so entwined into product endorsement that we unconsciously connect the two; Michael Jordan with Nike, or Glen Plake with K2 Skis. I will use this great analogy to emphasize the power of advertisements:
The father sat reflecting on how much joy his two sons brought to him during the year. He decided to buy them both the present of their choice this holiday season. When he asked his older boy what he would like, the son replied, 'Oh boy, I would like so many things. Maybe a bike, or new skis, or skin diving equipment. I wish I would have them all, but any one would make me happy'.
That was fine with the father, he now had some good choices. Next he turned to his younger son, who was only eight years old. The boy envied his brother for all the games he could play and all of the sports that he could do so well. When asked what he would like, he made one simple request. 'I would like a box of Tampax Tampons.' The father was shocked, 'What in the world do you want a box of tampons for?" he demanded angrily. The poor boy, not knowing he has said something wrong, answered, ' With Tampax, you can swim, ski, sky dive, horseback ride and play any sport you want."
This simple yet enlightening story allows us to look at the seriousness of advertisements. Advertisers can influence our desires for material products and ethical ideals. Looking to the future, this science tries to construct images within us at a young age. The silly Budweiser Frogs allow many young children to have a positive connection with alcohol. These kids will age and the large majority of individuals will sustain the connection. Young children especially are na´ve, allowing these ads to be more effective.
In 1999, advertisers spent a record $201.5 billion dollars to promote their products. Why are businesses paying this large sum of their capital to advertising agencies? According to industry analysts, advertising serves three basic functions. First, to recruit new customers secondly, to increase the use of goods or services among existing customers and thirdly, to help consumers prefer their product over the competition. This service can and does create new markets more promptly, more intensively, and less expensively than any other method of selling to the consumer.
How can we make companies switch to a greener marketplace?
Why haven't today's current corporations invested in a greener marketplace? Many producers today are struggling with the existing perverse incentives towards a green production. These companies have made substantial investments in capital equipment for their already established product line. Also, for many companies to enter the green marketplace they will call unwanted publicity their way. In essence, inviting a critical appraisal of their environmental performance. Not only would an existing company bring in this unwanted publicity, but they would also be turning the table, placing a greater emphasis upon environmental performance. " They would run the risk of letting fresh air into a market structure that is pretty well sealed right now-and tilted very much in their favor. By going 'deep green,' in other words, they would open the door to a new buying culture, with potentially grievous consequences for their established franchise" (Frankel)
These large stacks of moneybags exist in front of our path leading to a more sustainable consumerism. What ways can we slowly break through this wall? What alternatives will the market create? In order for us to push an era of green consumerism into the mainstream, we need to start to infiltrate the mainstream with a whole lot of education. The first step is educating the public about environmental matters. People can not change their consumer choices without knowing what their products do and where they came from. I feel very confidently that many people would do more if they only knew what impact their current choices are having on our environment. What is the fastest and most effective way to inform the mass media? Television! This is where the power of advertising can be utilized to provide a positive light and capture the attention of many minds.
Will a Consumer pay a Premium for Green Products?
One of the largest obstacles that companies producing green products need to overcome is the attached idea of a higher price. This common conception flows through consumers' minds and many do not want to pay a premium for an environmental product. A successful green product will hold benefits other than that of appeals to altruism. Most consumers know very little about the environment, which leads them to become skeptics. Leading them to judge upon industries claims and retailers price hikes. Also, it is a very important concept to note that consumers try to minimize their purchasing risks by buying brands they know. (Ottman)
The media and trends play a big role in the introduction and purchase of green products. When a consumer can connect a green product with health benefits, the scale turns towards the side of the environment. One instance is the incredible growth of organic products. The perceived health benefits have led this industry to grow by twenty five percent annually.
The main reason people shop is to get products, not to save the environment. This basic principal leads green marketing ventures to provide prices and performance that match with the competition. People will choose over some competitive brands for those that help the environment, as long as the prices are similar. Thus, the primary focus of many green producers should be upon the ultimate benefits that consumers would receive, topped with an environmental cherry. (Ottoman)
So what are some successful companies who have boarded the environmental train doing? A great success story lies within the research and development of the Phillips Electronics company. They have found the right balance of production, coupling great benefits with green products. They began a green campaign called Eco-vision in 1998, which resulted in a few very profitable and energy saving products. The Kala, DECT telephones, and a 32-inch television are among some of the most flourishing. The key component behind Philips research is "the stated willingness to buy green products when bundled with other benefits. Philips researchers found that linking such environmental attributes as energy reduction, material reduction, and toxic substance reduction with various material, immaterial, and emotional benefits desired by consumers, raises consumer purchases interest to 60 percent or above- a figure that includes consumers who may be negatively predisposed to the environment." (Ottman) It is clearly shown that the Philips company has created a system of marketing and advertising that applies to all consumers, not just the small percentage of green consumers focused on altruism.
Another company which has used its environmental mission to achieve an edge over the competition is Tom's of Maine. Tom's of Maine is a natural self-care product business located in the quaint town of Kennebunk, Maine. Tom Chappel and his wife Kate founded their company on the interest of providing natural safe products that support the principal that all forms of nature should be respected and sustained.
Tom's of Maine success has resulted from its dedication to its mission and friendly business practices. They have implemented critical strategies to make their company a prosperous enterprise. Tom's of Maine started by using only the finest natural ingredients in their products, which contain no additives, artificial flavors or fragrances. Their products are wrapped in recyclable materials, some of which have been previously recycled and others capable of being readily recycled. They too have found the successful mixture between a superior product and environmental consideration.
They have also allowed the consumer to understand what their products are composed of and where the ingredients and their sources can be found. They have used advertising on their products that explain their mission, their ingredients and their dedication to preserving the environment.
Another key concept the company has utilized is the emphasis on company-consumer relationships. The company's customer service department is exceptional, anyone who calls is greeted personally, and all letters are responded too promptly. They have also expanded their market to children, by adding a mixture of color, taste, and safety. Along with their many charitable donations Tom's of Maine has obtained customer trust, loyalty and personal connections. Their new wave of green business strategies has led them to increased sales. The company's sales have risen 25 percent from 1991 to 1995 and are growing. Tom's of Maine is a perfect example of how companies can preserve the environment, educate the masses, and sell products to reach the mainstream consumer. (Ottman)
Problems with the Greening of Advertisements Unfortunately, as the green movement is slowly breaking into the mainstream culture there are companies who want a free ride. Today, supermarket shelves, hardware stores, mall-carts and other retail shops are filled with products and packages announcing environmental features that may influence our purchasing decisions.
What do claims like "environmentally safe", "recyclable", "degradable", or "ozone friendly" really mean? Recently, the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency have developed several guidelines for advertisers to follow. Trying to guarantee that some environmental marketing lines do not mislead consumer's choices. Industry has developed a few smooth and soft environmental labels, which cease to be much help. Claims such as "environmentally friendly", "environmentally safe", "environmentally preferable", "Eco-safe" or labels that contain environmental seals are very ambiguous and show no environmental validity to the product"(EPA)
There are a few reasons why these labels are misleading. First, all products and services result in an environmental impact, some causing more than others do. Secondly, many of these claims do not adequately provide the necessary information we need to compare products.
As consumers, we must be wary and seek out the additional information that may explain why this particular product is "environmentally friendly". There are myriad of different labels, seals, symbols and alphabet soups that companies adhere to their products. The best way to ensure that the products that we buy are truly environmentally friendly is to check out www.epa.gov. The FTC has outlined and detailed the many claims and identified them accordingly.
The Future of Green Companies
We have just begun down the road toward a sustainable market place. How far will we go? Where does the future lie? According to a recent Economist magazine, "For far-sighted companies, the environment may turn out to be the biggest opportunity for enterprise and invention the industrial world has ever seen." The reason for this is because the health of the environment effects all colors, classes, ethnic groups and races. Every living human requires the essential elements of food, clothing, shelter, transportation and energy and these cruxes are all affected by the environment.
With the great expansion of technology, the green industry is moving closer and closer into the mainstream. "The World Wide Web is fast becoming an essential tool for green marketers. Many of the 17 million to 24 million regular web users earn a medium income of $50,000 to $60,000 are highly educated. These upscale demographics match those of environmental alert consumers" (Ottman) The World Wide Web may be the place to kick off the beginning of a great change in consumerism. Consumers are more able to obtain information than ever before. If we as a culture start to shift our ideologies towards a green marketplace, this will be a great step in preserving the environment. Advertising could be the cornerstone to an ecological revolution, educating the masses at early ages, and leading consumers to develop a strong connection with the environment. These children will one-day be next the corporate CEO's, bank administrators and advertisers. With the information we have now we may be able to reconstruct our ecological ethics and maintain a healthy world of bio-diversity.
Written by: EcoMall
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