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Can Marketing Save the Planet Ep 54: – As Citizens we really have a much bigger (and more important) role to play in the world! with Jon Alexander
20th April 2023 • The Marketing Society podcast • The Marketing Society podcast
00:00:00 00:50:09

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“How can organisations treat people as citizens, not just as consumers? How can organisations invite people into their agency and creativity to shape the world and not just sell them stuff?”

When Jon Alexander, author of the brilliant book ‘Citizens’ joined us on Can Marketing Save the Planet, we got straight into those questions! The subject story, the consumer story (where we are right now), and the citizen story, (the place we need to get to). Jon explained how we are currently trying to solve such disconnect from within the consumer story - “you just can’t solve an inequality crisis from a story of competition and status, or a story that says humans are separate from nature.” And, “What are we doing to ourselves when we constantly call ourselves consumers?”

The citizen story is all about taking ownership and getting involved, with everyone participating sharing their ideas, creativity and energy. And why is that so important, well because as Jon puts it, “all of us are smarter than any of us.”

We talk about the role marketing has played in the consumer story and what it will take to mobilise people in a different direction. Jon is a massive advocate for giving people space, ‘cognitive oxygen’ - and believes we can’t even begin to look at the role marketing plays until we stop and allow people to pause and think. He raises that perhaps we need to look at where marketing shouldn’t be in people’s lives, asking, “should there be a limit on advertising to children, and limits on outdoor advertising and product placement?” Jon thinks these kind of conversations are powerful and interesting, both for people and organisations, and we were in absolute agreement, these are the kind of conversations which bring about transformational thinking and change.

We delved into what the role of marketing might be in the citizen story. Jon believes the people in marketing can play a series of important roles, but people ‘need to be treated as participants in the process’, an area Marketers need to focus in on more. We raised questions such as ‘what happens when you give people a role and how do you collaborate and co-create to give people solutions that matter?’ We talked community, hearts and minds and the process of ‘respect, connect, reflect and only then direct’.

Jon shares story after story, packed with ideas, insights and stuff that not only motivates, but will make you smile. The idea of a future based on the Citizen story is one which fills us with hope and joy, and one where we can dare to imagine a fairer, better and more sustainable future.

There is so much to take in, so we’ll leave you to tune in and reflect.

For more on Jon and his work visit…

And the How to Citizen project he shared with us via Baratunde - see ‘How to Citizen’ here


You’ll find the Podcast on all the usual pod platforms - and if you love it, do share it and spread the word. Talking about climate change and the role we play is one of the most important things we can do. So join the conversation. We’re all in this together.

Our podcasts are recorded purely via online conferencing platforms, we apologise for any minor sound quality issues.