Jul 16, 2008

Disposability: Not a Bic idea anymore?

Following the launch of a Bic-branded disposable mobile phone, Influx Insights plants pertinent doubts about the relevance of the Bic brand in a world where corporate/consumer responsibility and use-and-throw disposability no longer go hand in hand. The post ends with the question "Does it (Bic) need to re-think how it can play a responsible role by making its products modular and re-usable and using more recycled plastics?"

In my opinion, the answers aren't as clearcut as they first seem.

The willingness to license the Bic brand name to connote a disposable product means that at least someone positively think both the Bic brand and disposability are relevant - and is willing to bet money on that prospect. They may be wrong, but you can't fault Bic for encashing their equity (especially if the world's changing fast) and the mobile phone marketers for trying to find out.

The responsibility here rests not with either of them but with the consumers at large. If they don't buy the disposable mobile phone idea, they send the message that times have changed - and end of experiment. If they do buy the product then, both Bic and the cult of disposability live to fight another day.

But should Bic be looking to change course and stay relevant? I am not sure they can, even if they want to.

Brand Bic may have a change of heart but are its consumers/audience willing to alter their perceptions about it? So deep is the association with disposaibility, is it worthwhile at all to spend money to change it? Especially, when the best such a massive image-changing exercise can hope to achieve is put it on par with others on the environmentally-responsible brand wagon?

It is also my belief that in a world of pervasive, distributed and persistent social media, brands will meet great friction if they try to redefine themselves drastically over the short-term. In fact the rise of social media will see a greater mortality rate for brands as brand custodians will find it easier to tear the sheet and start afresh, rather than wrestle with a rudder that may no longer be in their control.

Further, disposable products may not go out of fashion after all. As we pick up on super-efficient waste recycling - disposable products might not seem such a guilt-ridden option at all.

Finally, while disposable mobile phones might seem an irresponsible turn of events - it's not a new idea at all. All along, it's what every mobile phone manufacturer has been hoping you'll do sooner rather than later.
About the author:
Iqbal Mohammed is Head of Innovation & Strategy at a digital innovation agency serving the DACH and wider European markets. He is the winner of the WPP Atticus Award for Best Original Published Writing in Marketing & Communication.
You can reach him via email or Twitter.


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