[More] or (Less)

Many people are arguing for a fundamental change in the way humans interact with the world. This isn’t a post about whether or not we need smaller cars, local produce, smaller footprints and less consumption. It’s a post about how deeply entrenched the desire for more is.

More has been around for thousands of years. Kings ate more than peasants. Winning armies had more weapons than losing ones. Elizabeth Taylor had more husbands than you.

Car dealers are temples of more. The local Ford dealership lists four different models… by decreasing horsepower. Car magazines feature Bugattis, not Priuses on the cover. Restaurants usually serve more food (and more calories) than a normal person could and should eat.

Is this some sort of character flaw? A defective meme in the system of mankind? Or is it an evil plot dreamed up by marketers?

There’s no doubt that marketers amplify this desire, but I’m certain it’s been around a lot longer than Jell-O.

One reason that the litter campaign of the 1960s worked so well is that ‘not littering’ didn’t require doing less, it just required enough self control to hold on to your garbage for an hour or two. The achilles heel of the movement to limit carbon is the word ‘limit.’

It’s a campaign about less, not more. Even worse, there’s no orthodoxy. There’s argument about whether x or y is a better approach. Argument about how much is enough. As long as there’s wiggle room, our desire for more will trump peer pressure to do less. “Fight global warming” is a fine slogan, except it’s meaningless. That’s like dieters everywhere shouting, “eat less” while they stand in line to get bleu cheese dressing from the salad bar.

As a marketer, my best advice is this: let’s figure out how to turn this into a battle to do more, not less. Example one: require all new cars to have, right next to the speedometer, a mileage meter. And put the same number on an LCD display on the rear bumper. Once there’s an arms race to see who can have the highest number, we’re on the right track.