Selling kiwis a better way of living

By Wright Communications

For decades, Kiwi consumers have been told bigger is better. In an environmentally and socially-conscious world, marketers need to evolve their message to reflect the new reality: better is better.

Look at any advertising campaign from the 1950s and the images will likely feature happy suburban families with large houses, spacious backyards and lots of 'stuff', ranging from flash cars to electronic items, household furniture and an endless array of modern kitchen appliances.

Society has changed a lot since those days but marketing remains largely focused on selling people more things, which nowadays includes upgrading to the latest version of their gadget every five minutes.

What the images do not show is the downside of this consumerism.

An unsustainable pursuit

New Zealand is not unique in its consumption obsession, which has proved to be bad news for the environment.

Rising CO2 levels across the planet are contributing to potentially devastating climate change, while at a local level, pollution of New Zealand's waterways is putting our "100% pure" reputation at risk.

However, the environment is not the only thing under pressure from our need for more and bigger things: our families, finances and health are all suffering because of it.

According to the Reserve Bank, New Zealand households owe more than $250 billion, up 60% in the past decade. The increase is due to a combination of bigger mortgages and more consumer borrowing.

For many Kiwis, the quest for the 'quarter-acre pavlova paradise' means a long trip to work every morning. This comes at a cost.

A UK study of more than 34,000 workers across all industries found that a long commute is bad for health (including mental health) and productivity, while Swedish research suggests it could increase your risk of divorce. Is it all worth it?

The problems with the lifestyle marketers have been selling us are highlighted in The Good Life 2.0, a report by global advertising agency Havas and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Other issues include poor diets high in processed food, oversized houses that require an extra month or two at work each year to pay off, and a culture of throwing things away that wastes food, water and energy.

A better way

The Good Life 2.0 provides a 'playbook' for marketers, emphasising priorities such as home and family, free time and work-life balance, enjoyable journeys and local goods and produce.

"If marketers shape new aspirations and ambitions for living well in today's world, we can create the cultural foundations to support a better future for all of us," Havas Global CEO Andrew Bennet said in the report.

"If we present a world where better beats bigger, where smarter consumption beats excessive consumption, where more time beats more stuff, we will all prosper."

Ethical consumption

Bennet says a 'vanguard' of Millennials are already embracing the better versus bigger version of living well, as are a growing number of older consumers.

The Colmar Brunton 'Better Futures' report shows New Zealand consumers live up to this country's "100% Pure" slogan, caring deeply about both environmental and social issues.

The survey found nine out of 10 Kiwis have either a medium or high commitment to sustainability, while 83% worry about the future and whether we're doing enough to keep New Zealand a safe and healthy place to live.

Despite their interest in the subject, seven out of 10 Kiwi consumers cannot name any organisation as a leader in sustainability, either locally or globally. Almost half (49%) cannot even name one sustainable company.

The role of PR

Marketers are not the only ones who need to promote the updated edition of the good life to consumers. PR also needs to play its part.

As an industry, we should be using our position of influence to encourage a better, not bigger, way of living.

The Colmar Brunton research suggests there is room for improvement: three-quarters of consumers say the way businesses talk about their social and environmental commitments is confusing and hard to understand.

Wright Communications is proud to work with brands such as Meadows Mushrooms, Good Health and Inika Certified Organic Cosmetics, which all contribute to a better way of living.

We have always had a focus on helping clients do the right thing, but these days we are also helping consumer brands do the right thing.

The success of these brands shows that the "Good Life 2.0" is not going to be hard to sell to Kiwis and that PR is a key part of the sales and marketing mix.

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