The Future of Marketing? – The ‘Why Don’t You?’ Approach

In the 1980’s the opening title sequence of the children’s TV show ‘Why Don’t You?’ included the line ‘Why don’t you switch off your TV set and do something less boring instead?’

If the opening titles are a form of marketing, then the producers of the programme can be seen as taking a fairly suicidal approach – to actively encourage people to use less of what they have to offer.  Yet conversely, this approach maybe able to breathe life into the marketing function today as it struggles with the seemingly opposing forces of promoting business growth and sustainability.  One example that walks this line well is the current E.ON campaign as it claims that by signing with them, you’ll use less energy and pay less money.

As Jeremy Davies, E.ON’s Brand and Communications Director says:

“We genuinely want to engage with people about the energy issues that matter to them. We wanted to give consumers a clear, simple and honest answer: helping people use less energy, means they will have lower bills and lower bills mean happier customers who want to stay with us for longer.”

So, as you’d expect, it’s still about the £, but it’s about measuring Customer Lifetime Value, with the understanding that you’ll take a hit on the Average Revenue Per Customer per year, but you’ll keep them for more years.

As a result of E.ON promoting lower consumption and reduced bills, it should steal share from the competition.  If they are successful, then the total revenue from their growing customer base will be greater than the total loss of revenue from encouraging all customers to use less.  So the company will grow.

But, the marketing is interesting because it counters that fundamental belief in advertising and marketing – encourage consumers to consume more.  And (via research I bet) they have to use a long-copy ad to explain this different approach so consumers could get their head around it.

Thinking into the future, E.ON’s ‘Use us and use less’ philosophy could easily be transferable to categories where consumers are routinely encourage to consume in excess, in the same way that Virgin enters categories with poor customer service with its cheeky customer service/consumer champion attitude.

This maybe some way off for E.ON, but if the marketing community are looking for a way to reconcile their profession with the issue of sustainability, then they could do a lot worse that look at E.ON.  Can a clothing retailer promote that its items look better with age?  Or a consumer electronics company talk about the durability and longevity of their products for a change?

The question for marketers is if E.ON can do it – Why Don’t You?


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