This blog was originally posted on the website Valuing Nature.
Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the global marketing group WPP, recently called for an end to deliberate obsolescence, citing Apple as a prime example of a company that exploits this as a strategy to flog more stuff:
“Sorrell cited Apple as an example of a brand creating products that consumers quickly jettison in favour of the company’s newer ones. While nobody can deny that Apple produces desirable, design-led objects, they do tend to become outdated very quickly. The company cut the price of its 8GB iPhone model and scrapped the original 4GB model only two months after launch.”
Green marketers are increasingly willing to embrace strategies to encourage consumers to buy fewer, more expensive, longer-lasting things, rather than what John Grant, in his recent book ‘The Green Marketing Manifesto’ calls a “superfluity of crap commodities”.
“If our money was tied up in a few big budget items, we would buy classics that don’t go out of style, we would treasure them and take great care of them and we would derive status from their ownership.”
The problem with this approach is that it needn’t necessarily do anything to encourage people to embrace less materialistic sources of meaning. And as other posts on this site have argued, the only systemic and lasting response to the sustainability crisis we face is to work towards the emergence of such alternative means of securing our identities. If consumers consume because they need, psychologically, ever more new stuff, then making this stuff longer lasting but more expensive may simply lead them to work harder, or borrow more, to finance the increased costs of their new consumption patterns – with negative personal, social and environmental consequences.