If we do not plan a reduction this weekend (like the rest of the year), Laure, the creator of HO KARAN is wondering: should we blame those who join the movement for all that? What about green washing, this cognitive dissonance on the side of start-ups / DNVB which oscillate between colossal advertising investments and “dictatorship” of ethics one day a year? An open-hearted reflection to open the debate, and find the right balance without destroying our natural environment. We are waiting for your opinions!
At the origin of Black Friday ...
Black Friday, or “Black Friday” in French, is a commercial tradition that comes straight from the United States. This operation falls the day after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). The next day marks the start of the holiday season and Christmas shopping. It also became the day of the launch of sales for many brands, this famous Black Friday, widely popularized in recent years in Europe.
I created HO KARAN in 2015 and I remember that at the time, Black Friday was just emerging in France but already had a pejorative connotation for mainly ecological reasons: it was accused of pushing for consumption. This is why we have never participated in it, but that does not make us a more virtuous brand than the others.
1 day of anti-Black Friday campaign for 364 days of advertising hype
Numerous anti-Black Friday movements have emerged, often at the initiative of DNVB (digitally native vertical brands) of brands born on the web or Instagram supposed to integrate the entire value chain - but which often have better control over the approval of the chain (marketing, communication and sales) than upstream (research and development, production).
I have always participated in these anti Black Friday campaigns because I believe that the number makes the weight. In 2018, 51% of clothes were bought on sale, and this share is increasing every year (source at the end of the article). We have lost the value of what we buy, when the textile industry is the second most polluting industry in the world.
The cosmetics industry is also built on promotions. The largest French beauty retailers sell the vast majority of perfumes and skincare products at -25% and more all year round. Reductions therefore no longer make sense, they are now integrated by brands in the starting price of products to then make the customer believe that he has an advantage. Rather than integrate this paradigm, I chose with HO KARAN to very rarely do promotions. The prices reflect the value that we create, and our products have no seasonality, they have no reason to be discounted. This is why each year we participate in these anti Black Friday movements which aim to remind people of our fundamentals.
However, seeing these campaigns grow last year and observing the arrival of some large players, I was led to question the intentions behind the criticism of Black Friday and the overall consistency of the brands that refute it. . The main argument put forward is ecological, but I think the truth is elsewhere. Refusing a promotion to its customers one day in the year but bludgeoning them with advertising and offers of all kinds for the remaining 364 days, is it proof of ecological awareness and anti-consumerism? However, it is on this model that a good number of DNVBs which advocate the boycott of Black Friday have been built, with 2 major allies: Google and Facebook (now known as Meta and also including Instagram and Whatsapp) , spending between 20% and 40% of their annual turnover on advertising with the two American giants (missing source).
So this year, I wondered if it wouldn't be better to give customers 25% off one day in the year and not pester them with advertising the rest of the time ... Wouldn't it be better to thank with a gesture of goodwill and a direct financial flow from brand to client, rather than fattening Google and Meta?
Advertising and promotions: two faces of the same problem, the quest for growth and the conquest of market share
It has been several years since I have visited investment funds of all kinds. They are the ones who put diesel in the engine of the DNVBs to help them reach a critical size. The hyper concentration of capital - pushed by the United States and for some time now by China - makes this critical size more and more difficult to achieve and profitability more and more uncertain. What matters today is to be as big as possible, as quickly as possible, often beyond the basic considerations of what one might call a healthy business. I was struck by the fact that I rarely have to talk about the product and the R&D. What these funds mainly finance are Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and sales teams (generally young business school graduates). You have to sell to as many people as possible to acquire the most market share, even if it means losing money.
How is the CAC calculated?
In short, the calculation made by these investors is as follows: if I invest € 1 in advertising in this company, how many euros in turnover will I allow it to generate, and therefore how many shares of market will I acquire?
The inevitable growth of advertising cancer
"One's market share of a product being proportional to its share of voice, in the advertising market, each time a competitor increases its budget, it is necessary to align itself so as not to be left behind, and even to do even more, to increase its market share. The escalation of advertising between brands, the downward trend in its effectiveness, the passivity of citizens, everything contributes to the growth of advertising cancer. ”
> Source: Human misery in an advertising environment. How the world is dying from our way of life, of the Marcuse Group.
The guilt of consumers in a system where systemic advertising stimulates individual acriasis
The release of the IPCC report this summer, the media communication around the failure of the COP26 in November, the anti Black Friday campaigns this week, are all events where we do not fail to make individuals feel guilty: “You should be consumer actors” we are told."Lead by example, vote with your wallet, eat no more meat, do not fly, make your own deodorant with baking soda to save the planet." Even if the hummingbird fable is very appealing, I find that in personal development as in ecology, the injunctions to individual purity and small gestures have an unfortunate tendency to hide much more urgent systemic problems, by training individuals. against others, and against themselves.
It is not by blaming those who will take advantage of Black Friday to buy an electronic object at a discount, or to make their Christmas gifts at a lower cost that the problem will be solved at the source. It is not the behavior of individuals but the system that creates and maintains them that must be tackled. Because advertising stimulates acrasia, that is to say the fact of wanting one thing, but to do its opposite, to act against its best judgment. We all want to live on a healthier planet and have more reasoned material consumption in order to focus on the authentic, but the advertising and the promotions often associated with it nurture our consumerist vice by sweeping us into a whirlwind of desires and frustrations. Advertising serves to stir up cravings to inoculate new needs in order to make us constantly yearn for something more. As Séguéla advertiser cynically pointed out: “We can only develop in a society of overconsumption. This surplus is the necessary part of the system… This fragile system endures only through the cult of envy ”.
Here is the observation made by the Marcuse Group more than 20 years ago in their book: Human misery in an advertising environment. How the world is dying from our way of life: “Advertising continues to expand its empire. We are subjected to more than 3 advertising messages every day. How far will this bombardment go?”And “In the modern economy where overproduction is at its peak, it is not the customers who seek the products they need, but the goods that stalk them. We impose images on people who seek to protect themselves from them. It is precisely because people try to avoid it that advertising must harass them. ” Where "In France, more than 20 billion euros are invested per year in advertising - thirty times more than the budget of the Ministry of the Environment! What is it that is so decisive that we devote so much money, talent and energy to it? This is because the advertising system is essential for the expansion of consumerism and productivism, the consequences of which are catastrophic for both people and nature. ” ; “Advertising is the ideological fuel of this rampage: it constantly incites us to consume while blinding us to the consequences of this hyperconsumption.”
Advertising is therefore the engine and the symptom of the devastation of the world. “It contributes in two ways: by pushing for the overconsumption of industrial goods, it favors the development of a devastating economy, and by veiling the consequences, it slows down awareness that is every day more urgent if we want to avoid the worst. ”, still via the Marcuse group book.
Advertising is pollution of pollution
“Visual, sound, olfactory pollution… All these sensory and energetic pollution are as many mental pollution, degradation of the content of our minds. We recognize more logos than kinds of flowers, we know more slogans than poems. Advertising recovers all the values to better devalue them and disseminate its consumerist ideology. Multidimensional pollution, it has no other goal than to consume products of the industrial system, that is to say of the matrix of all pollution. In this sense, it constitutes the pollution of pollution. ”
Oppose Black Friday for ecological reasons and continue the hype on Google and Facebook for the rest of the year. Cognitive dissonance or pure cynicism?
I think that the majority of brand founders are sincere in their approach, but that the development of a business involves compromise and a complexity that can put blinders on us.
Patagonia, the brand idolized by a whole generation of urbanites in search of eco-conscience - of which I am a part - announced in a press release present on its site to have “Stopped all paid advertising on Facebook's platforms in June 2020 because they disseminated hate messages and false information on the climate change and american democracy. " If Patagonia, recognized as one of the most sustainable and activist brands in the world, waited until it reached a billion dollars in turnover to deprive itself of just one of its paid advertising levers, Facebook, it's good that the relationship to advertising is complex and can seem inextricable for a lot of companies.
HO KARAN and advertising
This summer, after a week of sailing with the family, far from any consumption, I board a plane for Tenerife to do a “raw adventure” course with Myriam and Jacky Boisset, 2 professional sportsmen who eat mainly fruit and live the more naturally possible. To go there, I board a plane from the low cost company Easyjet. On the headrest of the seat, 40cm from my gaze, hangs an impossible-to-avoid Coca Cola promotion. During the flight, one of the hostesses takes the microphone and asks our attention to speak to us in three languages about the scents of the duty free and the promotions not to be missed. This scene is surreal. I realize that I would have preferred to pay more for this trip than to be harassed by this advertising and incitement to consumption. I open my computer and start to write “Reflections on advertising and action plan”. As a brand, I feel like I'm closer to the problem than the solution. The first question I ask myself is: what is advertising, is there good and bad publicity? It's honestly still difficult for me to answer today, but Here is the ranking I arrived at by wishing to list all the forms of advertising that we carry out at HO KARAN:
I'm obviously not going to be hypocritical: we don't advertise on Facebook and Instagram because we can't - because of the hemp! And I know it, because we have tried. Our campaigns were immediately tagged as “Promotion of drugs and illicit substances” from 2017 (even if our products are guaranteed without THC and 100% legal) and our advertising accounts have been blocked since. How much would we have our hands in the honey pot if we could taste it? I wouldn't be able to answer that question today. I oscillate between the satisfaction of not feeding the GAFA ogres, and the frustration of not being able to make ourselves more easily known to customers to whom we could provide a solution.
We don't do Black Friday at the same time as everyone else, but every year on April 20 (called 420 for connoisseurs) we celebrate the International Cannabis Festival by offering our customers 24% off our entire eshop. This promotion being extremely rare with us, it is very successful (representing almost 1% of our annual turnover in 2021). And each year I find it tempting to repeat the operation more often even if we don't.
How to make yourself known as a brand without harassing and creating acriasis?
It seems unthinkable to me to denounce overconsumption by evading its engine and symptom: advertising. Just as it seems dissonant to me to promote ecological responsibility without thinking about the pollution of pollution: advertising.
It therefore seems urgent to me to fight against advertising, but I have come to the conclusion that its eradication is not an end in itself. Because a world without advertising would not be rid of all its ills. Some companies like Veja have built their communication model on not advertising, until this statement becomes a form of advertising in its own right.
How can this state of affairs be changed? By making buyers feel guilty? Certainly not. Through speeches on the virtues of frugality? It seems wishful thinking to me. I think we must force companies to be transparent and reasonable about their advertising investments. A company should be penalized if it refuses to publish its advertising impact annually and it should be integrated into economic, social and environmental reports, as well as taken into account by foundations such as 1% For the Planet or the BCorp label.
The question I ask today is: “What% of turnover is it reasonable to spend on promoting yourself and acquiring clients?” 10%? 15%? 20%? I don't have the answer, and I think that to find it you would have to bring together actors from all sides. What is certain is that beyond creating unfair competition, companies that invest at a loss in advertising by raising funds of tens of millions of dollars are economically and environmentally dangerous. "The dynamics of the advertising industry lead to a reduction in diversity and hyper-concentration. Far from being a sincere reproduction of economic diversity, advertising is concentrated in the hands of a few who produce a market for a few (very large) firms. In France, “0,001% of companies represent 20% of the advertising market, and 0,04% represent 80%”. We must therefore see advertising rather as an invasive disease, a pathogenic virus spreading across the globe… and in our brains. ” (source Marcuse)
Any action aimed at putting limits on advertising aggression - while waiting to be able, perhaps one day, to do without it entirely - is an ecological duty, a moral and political imperative for all those who would like to save our destruction from destruction. natural environment.
It is for all these reasons that II am less and less comfortable with the idea of opposing Black Friday, as if there were the evil anti-ecological brands on one side, and the virtuous on the other. As if some were spared any cognitive dissonance. Campaigning against Black Friday is also advertising, and sometimes green washing: "lhe advertising chic consists in claiming the safeguarding of what one contributes to destroy ” (source Marcuse M. Bénilde Group, op. cit., p. 135)
So I explained to my team this year my desire not to hit Black Friday, not to point fingers, blame or criticize. Everyone does what they can with the means they have. Instead, what interests me is to initiate a discussion with other actors on the impact of advertising and the reasonable ratios to which we should stick.
My desire is also to show our customers what we do every day, and not just one day in the year, to offer you the highest quality products possible and to pull the industry to the top. That's why we reveal to you today our “Transparency” pages associated with each product. We also went to meet our partners and talents - such as Pierre-Yves our chanvrier. All this, to allow you to better understand the value created and the actors who contribute to it at each stage of the chain of your product. And thus, even better to appreciate them on arrival.
By Laure Bouguen,
Ffounder of HO KARAN and in search of meaning for 30 years
Delivered : Human misery in an advertising environment. How the world is dying from our way of life, of the Marcuse Group
"Advertising is seriously damaging to health" of the environment, by Michael Löwy and Estienne Rodary
Soluble advertising in the economy by Jean-Michel Utard