More Musings on the Story of Stuff – Branding & Marketing

As I said yesterday, I’m currently reading this book:

Today, in the chapter on distribution I struck upon something horrifying. I guess I sort of knew this already, but seeing it in black and white is even more shocking. I’m sure we all know that most companies out there don’t actually make the stuff they sell, but they buy it in and have unknown manufacturers make it for them. We’ve seen this so much in the clothing industry where brands like H&M and Primark have clothes made up in India and take no responsibility for the working practices of those in their supply chain. This is all part of these companies plans to cut costs, basically by abdicating responsibility.

This efficiency driven, cost-cutting is pervasive. Companies don’t make the stuff they sell, they simply brand it. Apple don’t make computers, but they sure as heck have created a brand that people crave. H&M don’t make clothes, Nike doesn’t make trainers. They all simply buy the garments and items from producers, or the parts to assemble them and often not even from the same factory, but from multiple producers. It’s quite possible that one factory churns out the exact same product for multiple retailers.

So really, let’s face it – it’s often not the item we are buying, but we’ve been sold on the brand. The founder of Nike even admitted that the company once saw themselves as production oriented, but that they now understand their most important function is to market the product. So guess where they put all their money? Advertising. And often this advertising isn’t even for a specific product, it’s all about the image they want to associate with their brand. Nike aren’t selling your trainers, they are selling you a fashion statement that in this climate will probably be outdated in a mere 2 weeks!

The Rough Guide To Ethical Living

Today I want to recommend to you a book I discovered recently in a charity shop; The Rough Guide to Ethical Living. This book covers climate change, sweatshops, fair-trade, ethical investment, organic food, finances and more. Pretty much every issue you could face in life.

You know, life can sometimes seem like a moral minefield – particularly when you start to pay attention to ethics, zero waste, fair trade or green principles. It’s so hard to know which products or companies we should support and those we would be better avoiding. Also, there are so many claims out there today, despite advertising standards some can be dubious. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all.

If you would like some help to decide which ethical claims can you can trust then the Rough Guide to Ethical Living cuts through the ‘greenwash’ to answer your questions. This guide literally looks at all the problems and ethical options. It’s a relatively compact tome, but it covers all the main issues. Where there is more information available, it points you to relevant, trustworthy websites where you can find out more.

It’s particularly aimed at UK readers and recommends websites, books and magazines. It also includes tips on reducing your carbon footprint at home and on the road. I would consider this book to be an essential handbook for responsible consumers and it’s very easy to read. It’s definitely one that I plan to keep on my bookshelf for reference.

According to the blurb, there are a couple of other Rough Guides out there; The Rough Guide to Ethical Shopping and The Rough Guide to Climate Change. I’m going to add these to my reading list!