What is manufactured demand?

What is manufactured demand?
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This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on August 23, 2021.

Hey friend! It’s probably safe to assume if you’re reading this you’re not a fan of plastic water bottles. Amiright?

You know the environmental impacts, the potential health impacts, the implications with social justice and environmental racism… Ya just know plastic water bottles are a problem.

So then, how the heck did we end up in a place where bottled water is everywhere and people are actually paying for it, when most of us can get clean drinking water essentially for free from our taps?

Well, friend, the unfortunate answer is manufactured demand.

I’ve touched on the concept of manufactured demand briefly in one of our first blog posts, Why Plastic Isn’t the Problem, but what exactly is manufactured demand?

Manufactured demand is a marketing tactic used by companies to convince us that we need to buy their product because the alternative is unsafe, inconvenient, or otherwise undesirable.

Like tap water.

In 2006, Fiji water ran a campaign touting "The label says Fiji because it's not bottled in Cleveland,” implying that Cleveland’s tap water was unsafe to drink, or at least didn’t taste as good as Fiji’s bottled water.

But Cleveland didn’t take lightly to this campaign and ran some tests. They found that not only was their tap water cleaner but it also consistently beat out Fiji water in taste tests.

(Oh and btdubs, more than half of the people that live in Fiji don’t have access to clean water. So here in the States we actually have better access to clean Fiji water than the people of Fiji. Cool. 🙄)

Bottled water brands also use one of the most common types of greenwashing in their marketing - using imagery of natural springs, mountain landscapes, pristine forests. Our brains automatically assume that the water in the bottle is fresh, because, I mean, it’s either that or from pipes under our house carrying our tap water, right? The bottled water must be better! 

But in reality, about 64% of bottled water brands are actually just tap water, and in many ways tap water is more regulated than bottled water, so you’re more likely to know where your water is coming from and what’s in it when it’s coming from your own faucet.

These natural images, though, paint a picture in our brains of clean water and being part of nature, making these bottles more desirable than tap - thereby manufacturing demand.

It’s all part of the big marketing ploy to convince us we need bottled water.

Many people don’t have access to clean drinking water - something that should be a basic human right. And part of the problem behind it is polluting industries...like plastic production. So we’ve got water bottle companies telling us our tap water is unsafe, showing us beautiful nature images, and then polluting our waterways to actually keep tap water unsafe for so many.

It’s so hard to be a consumer. Sorting out what’s actually good for us and what’s greenwashing and what we actually need versus what companies are spending a lot of money on to make us believe we need it.

We need more transparency from corporations, and we need better regulations for producer responsibility. So, make sure you vote for representatives that fight for these issues!

And in the meantime, grab your reusable water bottle on your way out the door and avoid those plastic bottles completely.

You got this, my friend! Manufactured demand’s got nothing on your EcoWarrior ways.

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