Marketing: demarketing at the service of more responsible consumption

Marketing: demarketing at the service of more responsible consumption



In the LocoMotion project, from the Solon collective, we do marketing, or rather old-fashioned demarketing. (Photo: Katia Tobar)

“Don’t buy this jacket”. In 2011, the sports equipment brand Patagonia became a reference in demarketing. By discouraging the purchase of new products, it promotes more responsible consumption. Since then, the trend has grown. Many brands tout the sustainability of their products or services, sometimes flirting with greenwashing. So how do you set up a compelling demarketing campaign? Les Affaires asked LocoMotion and La Transformerie, two local initiatives that aim to change the paradigm.

Demarketing is a way of “encouraging the reduction in the consumption of a category of products”, explains Professor Marcelo Vinhal Nepomuceno, holder of the HEC Montréal Research Chair in Consumer Decision Making and an expert in anti-consumer lifestyle.

Demarketing, an educational tool

To promote the LocoMotion project, launched by the Solon collective, teams of ambassadors made up of involved citizens go door-to-door and meet citizens of Montreal neighborhoods after school. They do marketing, or rather old-fashioned demarketing. We do not sell goods or “services in a mere mercantile mode”; we offer sustainable mobility solutions to reduce the use of solo cars, explains Bruno Armand of the development team.

In describing its communications strategy, it emphasizes the “importance of telling a story”, created by educating (through guides and tutorials) and accompanying citizens on “a journey of change” through events, challenges (like the Share your car challenge), or games (Mobility Fresco).

Citizens act as “hyperlocal influencers,” he explains. As for the events, they create an “attraction”, even a virality around the message, and allow LocoMotion to build a reputation and grow. Other. No profit motive.

We “promote the use of commons […] We want to sell people a common vision, tell a story where mobility is no longer suffered, but chosen,” he says.

Trust relationship

With the Rescapés project, the organization La Transformerie fights against food waste by selling spreads made from unsold food collected from several Montreal grocery stores.

“We don’t want to produce a million pots a week,” explains chef Guillaume Cantin, general manager and co-initiator of the project. It would be an antithesis. We are not going to ask merchants to have more unsold products and more waste. We will stabilize production when the project is self-financing”, assures the entrepreneur.

The Rescapés project acts as an educational tool. “It’s a business card that allows you to create a bond of trust and to listen to different players in the field.” If the marketing methods for selling the spreads remain traditional (social networks, presence in the media) , the message differs from the usual selling points by highlighting the problem of waste, the quality of unsold items and the work of the volunteers behind the project.

Demarketing or greenwashing?

“Demarketing strategies can look like greenwashing,” confirms Valérie Vedrines, founder of the NPO Masse critique, which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the communications and marketing industry.

Faced with the population’s growing awareness of climate change, even brands specializing in fast fashion are getting involved. “It shows the impact of this speech,” observes Professor Nepomuceno. “You can’t just use green packaging when you launch a product, illustrates Valérie Vedrines. You have to be authentic.” She advises to bet on more sober, more targeted campaigns, and to change the narrative to remain coherent, by measuring the carbon footprint of your campaign, by favoring local photo shoots, or by avoiding filming. in 8K for broadcasting an advertisement on social networks.

In the context of inflation, Professor Nepomuceno confirms that demarketing can sell a “paradigm shift”. “Today, the source of well-being is linked to consumption, but this has not always been the case. Before, well-being was linked to the community, to the family.”

“Advertising has enormous power, […] we can show what a good life is today, what a more responsible normality looks like, ”insists Valérie Vedrines.


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