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When Will the Citizen Mind Go
Shopping?
                     Automakers claim a responsibility to
consumer mind reality, but they better pay close attention
to the citizen mind that’s emerging.
                                                B Y   P A U L   G I L D I N G




W
             orking in the day-to-day realitylems. However, when it
             of corporations, simplistic     comes to fixing them,
             assumptions that I developed    however, (and yes,
             outside get grayer. Discussing  Michelle, they could), they
these issues with friends, you start sound-  blame the customer. The
ing like a corporate apologist: “Well, it’s  challenge is that solutions
actually more complex than that.”            involve internalizing exter-
    As a case in point, I was discussing thisnalities, i.e. the customer
column with my wife Michelle and she         paying directly and short-
said, “Tell the auto industry to make more   term to fix problems that
efficient vehicles—we all know they could    are costing them indirectly
if they wanted.”                             or long-term—health costs,
    So let’s examine that. First, to declare military conflict, inefficient
interest and acknowledge an insider view:    cities and climate change.
Ecos has worked with the auto industry in    And customers are not
small interactions with Toyota, General      showing signs of wanting to pay.                 of companies with which we work. “We
Motors and Honda and, in a substantial           So it’s the customers’ fault, right? Well,   can deliver solutions, but the customer
way, with Ford.                              no. Toyota and Honda are significantly in        won’t pay.” So where are the “green” con-
    The challenge is this: The auto indus-   front of U.S. companies. The hybrid Prius        sumers? Do they really exist?
try’s main product—the car—is a major        is an example—better mileage and lower               We have two responses for companies
cause of climate change, creates most of     emissions without compromising safety,           that raise this argument.
America’s energy security problem and        fun or reliability. Subsidized by Toyota?            Firstly, this is an emerging issue and
makes its cities unhealthy and unpleasant    No—a clever investment. Its brand is             it’s hard work. The opportunity is leader-
                                                                    being positioned as       ship, and it is a complex path to navigate.
                                                                    “responsive to cus-       However, if you wait for customers to
“Companies that want to be in business for                          tomer concerns” and       push you in a new direction, you’ll be the
more than a year or two down the road need “ t e c h n o l o g i c a l l y                    victim of the market, not the leader of it.
     to see citizen mind as an insight into                         advanced” while they          Secondly, think differently about the
  the emerging future of consumer mind.                             shape the market to       consumer. There is no “caring, sharing,
                                                                    suit their technology.    green consumer” any more than there is an
 They’ll also see citizen mind as an insight
                                                                        But it is not easy    “environment destroying, forest munching,
          into voters’ likely influences.”                          for the American auto     SUV consumer.” We all have a bit of both
                                                                    industry. Japanese        in us. It’s like different parts of our mind
(not to mention that it kills tens of thou- companies have home demand pushing                operate at different times. Citizen mind sits
sands of people every year, but we’ll leave them. U.S. companies have home demand             at home answering surveys about intent.
that for another column).                    saying they care about environmental             Consumer mind goes shopping.
   While they might not put it that bluntly, impact, but with little effect on purchase           So can a company ignore these deeper
U.S. auto companies understand the prob- decisions. This dilemma is a constant cry            concerns and just sell to consumer mind?

18   GREEN@WORK NOV     |DEC|03                                                                           WWW.GREENATWORKMAG.COM
Yes, if they only plan on staying in business   industry? Three guiding rules.                     Toyota’s is hybrids. So stop whining
for a year or two. If they have a longer           ◗ FIRST: Ignore the coming change at            and do something! Find out how to
view, they’ll see citizen mind as an insight         your peril. The mass consumer might           turn your customers’ citizen mind on
into the emerging future of consumer mind.           not yet be demanding change, but              while they’re shopping. Toyota and
They’ll also see citizen mind as an insight          given the climate, science and                Honda are selling high-tech, fun cars
into voters’ likely influences. Over 80 per-         consistent public environmental               that go fast, drive safe and reduce the
cent of Americans think the auto industry            concern, the world is going to                conflict between the consumer and
should face tougher regulations on fuel              have dramatically more efficient              the citizen. Their market share’s
economy. Ignore that at your peril, Detroit.         vehicles before long. Are you                 increasing. How’s yours?
    However, it is complex. Consumer                 sufficiently hedged for the risk of a       Or you could take a more measured
mind does not send a consistent message.             discontinuous shift?                    strategy. Wait and see. Stand back and
Why are Toyota and Honda increasing                ◗ SECOND: Stop blaming customers.         watch sea levels rise and then . . . maybe
U.S. market share while Detroit is losing            They know what they want. Yeah,         sell boats? Sounds like a dinosaur strategy.
it? Not because they’re committed environ-           yeah, I know—they want it all,          Hope you can swim.
mentalists, which they’re not. They’re               they want it now and they don’t
winning because they’re responding to                want to pay for it. Sound like your                          Paul Gilding (paul.gilding
consumer mind reality, but listening to cit-         teenage children? Welcome to the                             @ecoscorp.com) is the
izen mind emerging. They’re producing                customer of tomorrow. It’s the                               founder and CEO of
bigger SUVs for the U.S. market while sell-          market, stupid. They demand.                                 Ecos Corporation, which
ing hybrids and making their whole fleet             You supply.                                                  provides strategic advice
more efficient. They’re playing to both            ◗ THIRD: Shape the market. You say no                          to corporations on how
sides of the purchaser’s mind.                       to Kyoto and no to U.S. fuel economy                         to create value through
    So the way forward for the U.S. auto             regulation. What’s your better idea?                         sustainability.




WWW.GREENATWORKMAG.COM                                                                                      NOV   |DEC|03 GREEN@WORK           19

								
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