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Consumers get socially conscious

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As people around the world become more aware of their environmental impact, products and companies must evolve, writes THOMAS VAN DER LINDE, LG’s General Business Manager.

The stereotype of the spacey tree hugger is well and truly dead. Today’s eco-bunny isn’t found chained to a tree, they’re your average young consumer who chooses to engage critically with the brands they consume.

According to BBMG, more than a third of the global population are ‘aspirationals’, who believe they have a responsibility to consumer brands that are good for the environment and society. That accounts for more than 2 billion consumers around the world.

What’s interesting about these surveys is that the most socially conscious consumers are found in emerging markets. A 2014 Nielsen study found that 63% of Africans feel they should buy socially responsible brands, compared to just 42% in North America and 40% in Europe.

Among consumers in developing nations, there is a generation gap between those willing to pay more for socially conscious brands. The study found so-called Millennials were much more agreeable to sustainability efforts than those 35 and above. Meanwhile, a second Nielsen survey entitled The Global Socially Conscious Consumer identified environmental sustainability as the leading concern among under 20s.

These attitudes are only set to become more prevalent as younger generations become an even greater percentage of consumers. Pertinently for companies, these consumers are not afraid to use their voices when it comes to causes they believe in. Lip service to environmental causes is not enough when anyone with access to a smartphone can fact check information and call brands out on social media.

Engaging with these socially conscious consumers isn’t easy, especially when it’s become positively trendy for brands to crow about their green credentials. In South Africa, just about every company of a certain size has a corporate social investment (CSI) strategy in place, leading to a natural wariness from consumers. The term “greenwashing” has been coined to disparage those companies that spend more money marketing how environmentally conscious they are than on actual efforts.

According to the Target Group Index, the largest single source brand survey in South Africa, local consumers are very willing to spend more money on socially conscious brands. They advise, however, that in order to win the hearts and minds of consumers, “marketers must be sure to get their green marketing messages aligned with consumer expectations.”

An appliance that’s been marketed as green but breaks down after six months is a good example of a misalignment. Another example would be a product that’s sustainably sourced but remains unaffordable to the target market.

Get the balance right and consumer loyalty will naturally follow. Woolworths, which recently embarked on a campaign with Pharrell Williams focused on sustainability, is one of South Africa’s most valuable brands. The brand has committed itself to ethical trade and sustainable production methods since 2007.

Today’s socially conscious consumer is a connected one, so it’s no surprise that the electronics industry is leading the way in consumer-first corporate sustainability practices. Companies like LG are making great strides in bringing long-lasting, energy efficient products to market. The majority of its products carry Energy Star ratings, a label that designates savings of $150 million in electricity costs over a product’s lifetime.

Nor are these efforts limited to the products themselves. The company has an e-waste programmes active around the world that seek to recycle electronic waste like old cell phones and discarded packaging. In the face of load shedding and electricity shortages, LG’s Switch-On campaign highlights energy-saving tips and educates consumers on what certain energy ratings mean.

As consumers choose to engage with brands such as these in increasing numbers, other companies have incentives to improve their own sustainability efforts. The socially conscious consumer is one with an enormous amount of power right now, and that can only be good news.

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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