Get your R’s into gear

When I was a young marketer I remember learning about the 4 P’s – product, promotion, price and place - which make up the fundamentals of the marketing mix.  I wondered though if there ought to be a fifth category – packaging?  In those days “packaging” was grouped under “product” but now it is more fully appreciated that packaging plays a much wider role than just protecting the product, often operating as an essential vehicle for communicating brand values.  So clearly packaging is a key promotional tool too that can create and be inextricably linked to a brand.  And I’m not just talking about truly iconic packaging such as the Toblerone carton or the Coca Cola bottle.  Any successful Brand Manager understands the importance of differentiating their product through the graphic and structural pack design; indeed this is sometimes even more important than differentiating the product itself! So staying with this alphabet theme we’ve now moved on to the letter R.  And again in it’s connected to packaging.  But this time there are three of them.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  The 3 R’s of Recycling as they are sometimes known – which is a bit strange in itself, as one of the three is actually “Recycle”.  Maybe that’s because it’s the most important one or the 3 R’s of Recycling just sounds better than the other options? I’m of the view, however, that the people who think these things up have once again fallen short.  Because I reckon there ought to be 5 R’s not three.  Given the 3 R’s are meant to be a motto that summarises how society can act in a more environmentally friendly way I believe that we should add two new R’s - Renew and Replace. “Renew” because unless the materials we are using are renewable then we are quite simply deplenishing the earth of its resources.  True circularity can only be achieved if we are able to renew the materials that we use.  Indeed, according to the dictionary, materials are not sustainable unless they are renewable.  Cartons of course are, but that can’t be said of all packaging materials. The fifth R is “Replace”.  By this I mean we should be looking to replace materials that harm the environment with ones that cause less damage.  This is easier to do in the packaging industry than many might think as there are plenty of examples of products that could packed in more environmentally friendly solutions without effecting the brand values I talked about earlier. So that’s my 5 R’s.  But I needed a catchy title for them and then it all became clear.  It is everybody’s responsibility – consumers, brand owners, retailers, manufacturers, governments to do the right thing to rectify the environmental problems that we have all created over the past 50 years.  We need to act responsibly.  So there you have it, The 5 R’s of Responsibility.  Or does that one make 6?