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Marketing and Comms
Embracing Conscious Consumerism Helping Brands Win Loyalty

This post is part of a series written by MBA and MPA candidates in Presidio Graduate School’s Managerial Marketing course, examining the role of marketing in advancing sustainability across all sectors.

Safely into the New Year and facing the bills, it is a good time to reflect on the real meaning of the holidays and how marketing can be a force for a new approach to giving thanks and sharing with friends and family. There is a growing awareness of our culture’s consumerist nature and its effects on our environment and other communities, as well as our social interactions and relationships. Though "Black Friday" messaging is generally inescapable, this year’s Black Friday saw 13.2 percent less sales and 11.2 percent less foot traffic, according to Bloomberg. While this may be due to a more cautious consumer and questionable economic times, an increase in online purchasing, or a split in revenues/traffic since some stores now also open on Thanksgiving Day, it may also point to a shift to more responsible purchasing behavior.

Numerous marketing campaigns have sprung out of the Black Friday movement, some of which suggest a more conscious set of values — whether through consuming less; producing less waste; supporting local, grassroots, or small businesses; or making contributions to causes in need. Black Friday has come to mean “Buy Nothing Day” for some (and celebrated in 65 nations worldwide) and kicks off a series of day-long consumer action initiatives, each with its own cause:

These initiatives demonstrate consumers’ desire to rally around a cause and be part of something, especially for a focused amount of time (in these cases, one day). In particular, the Friday, Saturday and Tuesday initiatives, while demonstrating a desire to mimic the success of the Black Friday campaign, are focused on a different and more thoughtful outcome. They highlight a growing awareness of our overconsumption and a need for more mindful purchasing, as well as contribution to local communities and the greater good.

As these day-long initiatives gain traction and demonstrate a shift in consumers’ values and behavior, it seems they are proving successful as certain businesses are aligning their own marketing efforts directly with these causes. Most notably, Patagonia, which regularly explores new avenues for marketing and advertising (such as its Common Threads Initiative and “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign), came out with a campaign and short film called “Worn Wear” in direct response to Black Friday traditions of purchasing new products. The film focuses on storytelling of wearing and rewearing Patagonia clothes, the timelessness (and durability) of their goods, and the tangible beauty and meaningful stories that come with wearing a piece over and over again. While this film and past Patagonia marketing campaigns deliberately go against encouraging consumers to buy their product, Patagonia continues to be an innovative leader gaining support across the board. By aligning their values with their marketing campaigns, Patagonia demonstrates authenticity and a broader appreciation for priorities beyond simple profits.

Overall, these day-long, consumer-oriented initiatives hint at the public’s evolving interests and values and will likely only continue to influence consumer behavior and purchasing patterns and decisions. While Patagonia is a leader in this space, there is certainly room for many more companies to join them here. By connecting with such initiatives as “Buy Nothing Day,” “Small Business Saturday” or “Giving Tuesday,” companies can differentiate themselves and gain recognition for their broader awareness and acknowledgement of their consumers’ shifting values. While these initiatives are proving successful, they will be all the more powerful if more and more companies can link with their efforts, support their messaging, and further shift our consumption patterns to more conscious and responsible actions.

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