Sustainable Marketing: Is it the Right Strategy for Your Brand?
Since 2020, consumers have proven more eager than ever to commit to eco-friendly, sustainable brands and products.
Younger generations cite climate change as one of their top concerns and are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Even if consumers can’t afford major purchases like electric cars, they seek out alternatives to traditional products, such as reusable items, and are more likely to buy from brands that align with their own views on sustainability.
With consumers focusing on sustainability, what does this mean for brands? Can brands market to eco-conscious consumers in an authentic way and build brand loyalty? Read to learn more.
What is Sustainable Marketing?
Sustainable marketing, or eco-friendly marketing, is a strategy that markets products and services based on their real or perceived environmental sustainability.
As new technologies develop and consumer habits change, what qualifies as “eco-friendly” has also shifted. Along with traditionally eco-friendly products, like recyclable materials, consumers are finding other thoughtful and creative ways to be more eco-conscious.
This is both an opportunity and a challenge for brands. While it offers the chance to build customer loyalty and encourage the purchase of premium products, it also means building a strategy around consumers who are smart, in-tune with marketing efforts, and not afraid to call out brands who don’t live up to their sustainability claims. With 85% of consumers looking for "greener" options, companies have to look to sustainability for their future.
Appealing to Younger Generations
When polled for their top worries, climate change ranked high for both Millennials and Gen Z. They feel the effects of inflation and poor economic conditions, but are less willing to sacrifice sustainability in favor of cheaper products.
On the flip side, they are also finding ways to be both sustainable and frugal: by growing their own food, engaging in the resale market, cycling more to get around, and making one-time purchases of reusable products. For example, one survey claims that up to 69% of Gen Z purchased a reusable water bottle in the past year.
The resale market is also booming because it offers lower-cost alternatives and sustainability promises. Some online thrift stores provide estimates of how much carbon and water you save by purchasing resale, an appealing feature for many.
For these consumers, saving money and saving the environment go hand in hand. They’re willing to do the research and connect with a brand for the long term.
When faced with a choice between two products, one more environmentally conscious than the other, many Millennials and Gen Z will choose the more sustainable option – and they aren’t interested in supporting brands who fall short.
Should You Use Sustainable Marketing Tactics?
Image is everything. Younger consumers want brands to have a moral compass and be aware of their own contributions to climate change.
Consumers can figure out what companies are sustainable, and which are trying to hop on the bandwagon. Coming up in the digital marketing space, younger generations not only easily identify inauthenticity, but have no issue dragging brands through the mud that don’t live up to their promises.
However, considering how involved it is to develop, create, and market anything, it’s unlikely that anything you sell will be 100% sustainable. So how can companies use sustainable marketing to their advantage?
- Be honest. Avoid greenwashing. Use eco-friendly marketing to talk about what you’re doing, and what you can do better. Don’t attempt to make claims you can’t back up, or pretend your brand is perfect when it comes to climate change. It’s not. Think carefully about whether you even should participate in this conversation. As much as it can benefit brands to take part in sustainable marketing, it also has the potential to hurt brand image if your efforts ring false to consumers. Jumping in too quickly can lead to image issues in the long run. Plus, as appealing as it might be, you don’t have to use sustainable marketing strategies for your brand to succeed. It’s better to be authentic and not get caught lying or trying to trick people in the name of sales.
- Don’t patronize consumers. Nobody wants to be pandered to. Younger generations, especially those who take climate change seriously, can often be put off by the tone of ads. It's clear when ads are created to cater to people who didn't have a say in the strategy or creation of said ads. They can tell when you’re inauthentic and just doing something for placement in an algorithm, or don’t actually care about sustainability.
- Align your sustainable marketing campaign with your mission statement. Your brand tells a story, and customers build loyalty to your brand based on how well and how consistently you tell that story. Sustainability should support and complement your mission statement and values, and you can design your sustainable marketing campaign around your own beliefs. Since every brand should have a thoughtful, honest, and transparent mission statement, consumers will relate to your consistency and your own commitment to your brand’s story. Sustainable marketing should help tell that story, not be in opposition to it.
The bottom line? Don’t attempt an eco-friendly marketing strategy unless you can back it up. Just like all your marketing efforts, sustainable marketing should align with your company's mission statement and values. As ever, the best way to build brand loyalty is by telling a great story with emotional appeal.
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