This is the time of year where marketing agencies all ponder what the next year will bring and how we will climb our own individual mountains, including the assurance that we bring thought leadership to our clients. To help us, numerous organizations send out their lists of consumer trends that we should be aware of and exploit. Two have recently caught my attention:
Eco-cycling: Trendwatching.com has called out eco-cycology  as an emerging trend where a brand takes back their products from consumers once they have reached the end of their “usable” lives, so the materials can be recycled. Chaco  (one of Ryan Partnership Chicago’s clients) is pioneering this type of behavior.
Chaco allows their consumers to “ReChaco” (re-web/sole) the shoes they have become emotionally bonded to (because they may have climbed Mount Whitney in them), and eliminate waste. “Chaconians” (Chaco’s loyalists) are often as enthusiastic about their shoes as some people are about their pets, thus they support eco-cycology with passion.
Idle Sourcing: The other trend forwarded by Trendwatching.com that intrigued me was idle sourcing , or allowing people to contribute to any “socially improving activity” with minimal effort thanks to their smartphones’ GPS. One example is Street Bump, an app for Boston city officials to locate and fix potholes automatically through users’/drivers’ accelerometer on their smartphone (Chicago, are you listening?).
Now here is my big idea. What if we combined these two trends and used idle sourcing to encourage eco-cycology? Manufacturers could place microchips in all products, so when an item is close to wearing out, the chip would alert the owner to recycle or refurbish the said item, with of course, an incentive offer. The installed chip would activate and send a text to the user’s smartphone like, “hey, it’s time to get your shoes re-soled and get xx % off.” If the owner simply tossed the item away, the installed chip could beep a loud siren-type message, encouraging the owner to recycle rather than simply discard.
Okay, so maybe shaming is not a good idea, but we certainly need to take some drastic steps to change our collective behavior.
Manufacturers may at first find this idea troubling, as less new merchandise would potentially be purchased if product lifespans are increased–but I urge manufacturers (and retailers) to strategically plan for this now, and devise profit models that will deliver for both consumers and the planet. That’s where we marketers can also help. So here’s to 2012 folks, and climbing our mountain in ReChacoed shoes!