Gifting ourselves and the environment

by Mary-Anne Webb, Principal, Inspirit Marketing

I wonder how long the gifts we receive this Christmas will survive. Survive our changing taste or survive until they grow old with wear?

It’s easy to get a bit heady amidst the tinsel, trim and carolling in the department stores. There are literally shiny baubles everywhere.  The lure of the new draws us in. The merchandising and pre-Christmas promotions are designed to tempt us to buy the latest and greatest of what’s on offer. It’s hard for the grown ups to resist the latest gadget, let alone the kids.

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Apple have taught us to ‘need’ their latest device even before the last one has served its usefulness. The latest iPhone 6 was released only a year after the release of the iPhone 5c and 5s.  We’ve learned it’s unfashionable to enjoy our products until they die a natural death. We’ve learned it’s social currency to have the latest and greatest.

Who’s to blame for the planned obsolescence? Is it the whim of consumers who need the next new thing to show they’re current? Or the marketers who need to phase out their product before it goes into decline? Or maybe it’s the designers armed with AutoCAD. This seemingly productive tool has given designers freedom to innovate multiple product variations and satisfy (or stimulate) increasingly fickle consumer demand.

AutoCAD has allowed companies, their manufacturers and designers to respond to consumer demand in a way they never could before. Unfortunately the beauty of customisation and personalisation has a dark side. Who takes responsibility for sustainability? Must profit and sustainability be mutually exclusive? Not according to companies like Toyota, Sainsbury’s, WalMart, DuPont, Tesco, Unilever, Marks & Spencer and General Electric. They’ve made it a key economic driver to tackle environmental waste. Here’s an opportunity for business to step up where governments just can’t get it together.

Consumers also need to vote with their dollars to show they care about sustainability. In some ways they do. Consider Lego. Here’s a product that’s bucked the obsolescence trend to create a product that keeps giving. It’s specifically designed to build upon the Lego you bought before and create beyond the boundaries of their prescribed booklets. It’s even a product that’s handed down from generation to generation. How risky! And yet, as a business Lego still thrives and is as relevant and desired by new generations as it was decades ago.


The beauty of Lego is that it delivers customisation in a box every time – no AutoCAD required. Did you know you can combine six of the eight studded Lego bricks in 915,103,765 ways? Take that Apple, that’s enough variety to satisfy even the fussiest of consumers.


Mary-Anne Webb, Principal of Inspirit Marketing, supports marketing professionals in business to business service firms to make their brand distinctive through their words, visuals and people.  She improves her clients’ communication with their clients by focusing on how well their unique brand story is reflected externally and lived internally.

Mary-Anne has over 25 years’ background in branding and relationship marketing, with 15 years spent in diverse marketing roles within blue chip organisations and professional service firms during periods of growth and change, and over a decade consulting to established companies and entrepreneurs.


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