Green Marketing And The Experience Economy: Not Comfortable Bedfellows

December 30, 2007 at 12:55 pm Leave a comment

Commercial ventures are beginning to combine experience marketing with green initiatives. The pioneers do their level best to understand what they are getting themselves into. But what are their chances to achieve real success?

Green marketers are thrown in at the deep end because they not only have to compete on products offered but also on educating consumers if they want to broaden their client base beyond committed green consumers.

Experience marketing is often considered a vital way in. One big consideration is that this form of marketing is so incredibly, uuuh, personal. It makes the normal marketing methodsappear awfully roughshod. So what is it that makes personal consumption in any way strategic?

Alex Steffen, executive director at WorldChanging.com, says the short answer is ‘multiplied leverage’. But he points out that the philosophy behind it is akin to the illogic relationship of consumerism and being ideal. The most sustainable consumption/invention/design is of course the one that is not made. But that premise offers little solace to a marketer who needs to invent new strategies.

The real power of the individual is that personal taste generally isn’t branded yet generally desirable. In that sense, the power that small has over big has magic connotations. Almost to religious proportion, if you go by the credo of Kunkelfruit, a wiki project investigating how products are made, consumed and disposed of. It is a direct quote from Benjamin Kunkel’s novel Indecision; ‘When you eat from this fruit then whenever you put your hand on a product, a commodity, an article, then, at the moment of your touch how the product came into your hands becomes plainly evident to you. Now there is no more mystification of labor, no more of a world in which the object arrives as if by magic – scrubbed clean, no past, all of its history washed away’.

Others point at the limits of economic growth as a key factor. “Our growth-system now covers the whole planet, there is no more outside”, says Michel Bauwens of the European Centre for the Experience Economy.

It appears that these are notions that producers are beginning to be aware of. Some big companies have begun to undertake efforts to zero in on human consciousness and capitalize on hypercorrect information flows.

One initiative that takes the market research concept right to the very point of a company’s inception is Fluid Innovation. The company launched Virtual Ventures, a fantasy game that allows ordinary people to act as wannabe venture capitalists in a fantasy game. People are invited to bet on the viability of real life technical innovation ideas. The game applies crowd sourcing with prediction markets, say reviewers at ZDnet. Players determine the viability of technologies that are not fantasy. Each week, Virtual Ventures enlists the ideas of five wannabe companies for research by players. The data generated, unwittingly, by players of the fantasy game is sold for hard cash to real-world buyers.

Kunkelfruit’s attraction underscores the idea that what is (possibly mistakenly) perceived as the narrowed consumer producer relations are the new trend. All its entries have a tremendously exciting feel to them because they reveal information about the things that surround you every day but that you had little knowledge about other than through glossed up advertising messages.

The products that are descibed include Nintendo Wii, toilet paper, pringles potato chips.

Kunkelfruit not only follows the entire life history of the product from raw material extraction, to sale, and in some cases, disposal but also shows a breakdown of costs as percentages of sales price. To know just how the ingredients to the chips you’re eating were grown, harvested, belabored, packaged, and marketed might make them taste like they’re home made. Isn’t that the ideal that, deep down, everybody dreams of?

In the near future, Kunkelfruit’s editors are about to launch a series of anthologies about string theory. The project complements Kunkelfruit perfectly because it fills a gap that exists for both consumers and marketers. String theory is described as “a relatively new [..] branch of theoretical physics that attempts to unify the realm of the very large, described by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, with the realm of the very small, as defined by quantum theory”.

Despite the new developments that put the consumer center stage, the gap between marketers and consumers could still be widening, not narrowing. The reason? Michel Bauwens of Experience Economy believes there’s a “growing discrepancy between the direct creation of use value through social relationships and collective intelligence”. In other words, what is experienced as value might be a lot more complicated.

Experience Economy developed a tool to measure the impact of meaningful experiences to research this. Turns out that its findings showed that only a fraction of experience ‘value’ can actually be captured by business and money. Innovation is becoming social and diffuse, that is undeniably the case. But Bauwens points out it is only an emergent property of the networks rather than an internal R & D affair within corporations. Ouch.

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Entry filed under: Green Economics.

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