Sunday, November 9, 2008

Too Much Truth

An observation from journalist Melanie Warner:

Retailers haven't figured out how to inspire customers to buy, say, organic cotton. It's bad marketing. If consumers knew how many chemicals it takes to grow and manufacture conventional cotton goods -- how it affects our water, food, air, and our risk of cancer -- maybe that would change. In a crowded marketplace, it is an unexploited competitive advantage.

Bad marketing is one way to look at it.

Another possibility is that companies are afraid to tell too much truth.

If, say, Gap gets jump up and down excited about a new line of safe, clean, worldloving organic cotton jeans, then what about those shelves and shelves and warehouses and warehouses full of the old stuff?

If they push the new product, suddenly they're competing with themselves And if they market the new product too well, they'll market their old jeans right out of business. And that might not be a problem if they could know for sure that (A) their customers are ripe for a change, (B) their marketing will be good enough to harvest every one of those ripe customers, and (C) their production facilities and/or suppliers will make the transition seamlessly and pump out shelves and shelves and warehouses and warehouses of organic cotton green jeans.

But they don't know for sure. So they're scared. Big and bureaucratic and conservative and scared.

And that's a tougher problem to solve than bad marketing.

Social intrapreneurs maybe? Smaller companies challenging for market share? Highly educated and purposeful consumers? Nonprofit marketing gurus taking matters into their own hands and telling that truth, whether the companies like it or not?

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