Foreword (InDepth Issue 13)
Would you like the ethically-sourced, recyclable trainers or the ones designed by Usain Bolt?
For all I know, the example above may well pose an opposition that is not real. Usain Bolt does design a range of shoes for Puma but I know nothing about its sustainable criteria. The point is that the marketing people trust the star's ability to drive sales and are uncertain that environmental criteria will do so.
This edition puts Nike under the microscope as a way of illustrating the general gap between consumer scepticism and corporate priorities. As our interview with Nikes Sarah Severn reflects, sustainability criteria; ethical sourcing and recycling, water conservation and low energy use are key business drivers of many global brands. Slow changing marketing departments, however, appear to have been more comfortable not sharing this with the consumer. If the consumer is behind the curve and appears sceptical about global corporations claiming the ethical high ground, then corporations reluctance to build brand associations is likely to be one of the causes.
Ruth McNeil highlights two mutually inhibiting forces at play, which conspire to mask their shared environmental concern, timid marketing and sceptical consumers. The position of both marketing and consumers is captured in the classic psychological theory of Cognitive dissonance; we rationalise and cling to familiar accounts to support the status quo. So up to now we have had stalemate, but will marketing departments seize the opportunity to elevate environmental credentials into a brand attitude?
This article was first published in InDepth magazine, September 2010
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2010