In recent years, there has been a definite shift towards sustainability, particularly when it comes to the younger generations. With this increased focus on sustainability and corporate social responsibility, it is important for every business to evaluate how to apply these ideas across all of the different areas of a company, including marketing.
Focusing on tackling climate change by reducing your carbon footprint is now an integral part of business. Both millennials and Gen Zers are showing an undeniable shift towards sustainable items, sustainable work, and overall more sustainable choices.
Eco-friendly choices are on the rise, and companies who don’t care about sustainable practices such as lowering their carbon footprint, and those who don’t make their choices known to the public, are seeing their value drop. Sustainable marketing goes past recycling your paper and making sure that the fridge is empty and turned off at the end of the working week. It has now progressed to actively fighting climate change, be it through donations or volunteer work within the company.
While many companies choose to focus their sustainability efforts on the environment, it is not the only way to show your commitment to the planet. Social sustainability, unlike environmental sustainability, is a concept that is growing in importance and focuses on the way a company might give back to the community and humanity as part of a broader interpretation of sustainability.
What is Sustainable Marketing?
Sustainable marketing means that a product or service is marketed using the specific angle that it is better for the planet or community than its competitor.
If you’ve ever opted for something based on the fact that it is made from recycled materials or because every purchase is matched with an equal donation to a cause, then you have already experienced sustainable marketing in action.
Benefits of Sustainable Marketing
There are a multitude of reasons to choose the sustainable marketing route for your business, from strategic marketing reasons to improving the overall direction of the company.
- Your brand image will improve, which will give your business a competitive edge.
- Branding yourself sustainably leads to increased sales and a more loyal customer base.
- If your office is making sustainable choices then you are likely to reduce internal costs.
- Your staff retention rate will improve if the people who work for you share the same ideals that your brand is committed to.
- You will attract better potential employees if you publicize your sustainability efforts well. More and more, prospective employees are looking to work for companies that don’t necessarily pay the best, but instead align themselves with causes that they believe in.
- As the world shifts toward sustainable practices, you will likely save yourself the expensive and daunting job of changing your practices to fit with new regulations if you are already complying or are at least moving in the right direction.
- Overall, changing to a sustainable business model will improve shareholder relations, brand image, and employee retention rates. It can also help to lower long term business costs and keep you ahead of the curve. What’s not to love?
While there are certainly plenty of reasons why switching to a sustainable model is the right choice from a business perspective, the ethical reasons also cannot be ignored. The world is changing, and it is the responsibility of businesses of all sizes to make changes that benefit both people and the planet.
It is now more important than ever for companies to do their part in creating a sustainable business infrastructure.
Sustainable Marketing Principles
There are 5 basic principles to creating a sustainable marketing model for your business. These principles are as follows:
1. Focus on Consumer-oriented Marketing
In a nutshell, consumer-oriented marketing focuses on the needs of the customer. This means that the end goal isn’t to sell your product to the consumer, but rather that the goal is to understand what your customer base needs and to create a product or service to fulfill that need.
This strategy requires an understanding of your client base. A true understanding can be difficult to achieve unless you are willing to invest time and money into things such as market research, focus groups, surveys, and so on. However, the information that you will garner is an incredibly useful resource for getting ahead of the competition and offering your client base exactly what they are looking for.
2. Customer Value Marketing
Customer value is a type of marketing that sustains itself if executed correctly. You can create value for your customers if you offer a solution for them. It doesn’t matter whether you are providing a necessary item or a luxury item. Consider the benefit that your product may offer the consumer in order to create a product or service that is truly valuable.
If you succeed in creating a product or service that provides a solution and creates genuine worth for your customer, you are ensuring that you are providing customer value. Creating this value will ensure that your business in turn holds value to the customer, and as a consequence the customer will be more loyal.
A loyal customer creates value for the business as they will continue to buy things from you and likely you will receive more clients from word of mouth marketing. Loyalty to the customer creates loyalty to the brand.
3. Innovation in Marketing
Innovation breeds progress, and progress breeds innovation. In order to keep your business and your product relevant it is imperative that you continue to improve your product. If you consider large corporations such as Apple, they keep a loyal customer base by continually improving their product.
The best way to stay on top of the consumer’s wants and needs is to conduct thorough market research with your client base. Discover what is working, what is not working. Improve on what is working and change what isn't working.
Your client base doesn’t need to be large. If you have a clothing brand and your best selling items are consistently from your plus-sized line, push that area. Perhaps try selling even larger sizes, and focus your marketing strategy on plus-sized items.
This will result in a loyal consumer base, and can help you to discover your niche.
4. Sense of Mission Marketing
Sense of mission marketing is the philosophy of describing a company mission in social terms, not in terms of the product. This means that the company has a greater mission for creating social change, not just pushing their product.
Sense of mission marketing allows both employees and consumers to relate to the larger concept of a brand. It sets a business apart from others and allows clients and staff to align themselves to the principles of the product.
An example of this in action is Dove’s “Love Yourself” campaign. After completing a survey of 3300 women, only 2% of respondents said that they felt beautiful. So, Dove’s next marketing campaign proudly stated that all women are beautiful and used a range of different body types to model.
Every woman buys soap, shampoo, and toiletries. But Dove set themselves apart from the competition by reaffirming body positivity and rejecting the usual industry standards. This was remarkably successful and led many women to believing in themselves and their appearance more.
5. Societal Marketing
Societal marketing doesn’t just consider the needs of the customer, nor just what the company itself needs. It instead considers the greater needs for the future of society. It seeks to offer what the consumer wants but to also consider the long-term effects of the product, and mitigate any negative outcomes before they occur.
This style of marketing allows consumers to relate to the greater cause of a company. It's increasingly common for consumers to prefer products that consider a greater purpose. In fact, more consumers than ever expect the brands they support to make their ethical stances clear- or they risk losing the customer.
Societal marketing can focus on the environment, societal factors, or both. Similar to CSR, societal marketing offers a chance for customers to stand with their beliefs while also buying the products that appeal to them for other reasons.
Sustainable Marketing Strategies
Putting your sustainable marketing plan into practice is obviously a key part of success, so ensuring that you execute it correctly from the first step is very important. Below are 5 key strategies and tactics for implementing your plan successfully.
1. Consider Your Chosen Sustainable Strategy During Every Step
To truly commit to sustainability, you must make it a part of your business model. It’s no longer good enough to make donations in the company name once a year. If you intend to market yourself as a sustainable business, you must commit to sustainable practices on every level.
For example, if your social commitment means helping young mothers return to work then you might make donations to a local charity, have a back to work program, or a subsidized childcare option. However, if your company doesn’t actually employ any young mothers then it can look like you are portraying a false narrative. This can actively damage your company image and in turn damage the cause you have pledged to help, which no one wants.
What’s the solution? During every business decision consider your greater mission. The above example can be solved simply by having an internship established specifically for the purpose. This helps your business to maintain credibility while also setting an example as to how you may actively help your target demographic. When your client base can see and verify that you are doing what you say you are doing, increased brand loyalty and trust will follow naturally.
2. Start With What You Sell
This may seem obvious, but the most important place to start when it comes to sustainable marketing is the actual product or service that you are selling. How can you develop a sustainable marketing campaign if the product itself does not meet standards of sustainability?
From the very outset of your campaign, consider how you can make your product more sustainable or emphasize aspects of it that already meet sustainability standards. After investigating, you may even be surprised by how sustainable your product already is.
For example, imagine that your company produces garbage bags, a product that on its face is not seen as especially sustainable or environmentally-conscious. If you have the evidence to prove that your product has considered its supply chain, your company's carbon footprint, waste management, and how the product can be disposed of at the end of its timeline, then your product may already be the most sustainable choice on the market.
The lesson is to always start with your product first: consider the sustainability of your product, how it compares with competitors, and make decisions based on your findings.
3. Tell Your Brand's Story
Your brand has something to say. That’s why you have a mission. Why not, instead of just making your mission a short article on your website, create a whole story around it. This helps to make your brand more personal and relatable to clients.
A brand that is personally relatable is a brand that will more easily earn customers’ loyalty. The magic of social media is that it allows you to interact with both current and potential customers without barriers, and in a natural and fluid way.
This is a truly fantastic way for sustainable brands to showcase who they are and what they offer to the customer, and it offers exposure in a way that allows brands to become relatable. During the pandemic, some businesses even found a way to flourish with the help of social media strategies.
For example, Boohoo, an online clothing brand, does a truly exceptional job of marketing on social media. They have a fun, bubbly online personality that their clients love to interact with. So much so that their profits went up by 45% in May 2020- right at the start of the pandemic.
They achieved this by offering an authentic look at the brand’s personality and by engaging with their customer base in a highly relatable way. Your brand's story needs to resonate with your customers, and it needs to share what sets you apart from other businesses.
4. Build a Community
Another very effective sustainable marketing strategy is to build a community around your brand.
One way you can build your community by contributing to the wider community. Doing charity work, hosting and attending local events, and contributing to the community in a meaningful way will help you to be seen and raise your brand awareness.
Publicizing events such as this on social media shares your efforts with a wider audience and allows more potential customers to discover your brand. This helps you build an online presence which can help with social shares, subscribers, and sales.
5. Educate Your Client Base
Once you have a larger client base, you can share your knowledge of your causes. While they will know the basics of what you are supporting it is your job to deep dive into this and educate them more.
Share with your audience the reasons why your product is the more sustainable option, the reasons why you made this choice, and why your product is better than other options. If you have a clothing brand that works with sustainably-sourced cloth and local workers, then share the damage that fast fashion can do to the environment and the people who work in the factories.
This helps to increase awareness of existing problems in your industry, as well as encouraging your social media following to research better options- which of course leads them to your company.
Sustainable Marketing Examples
Sharing what businesses should do is all very well and good, but let’s take a look at some of the most successful sustainable marketing techniques in practice.
The Patagonia brand of outdoor clothing is never far from anyone's mind when discussing sustainable marketing. They use their social media as a key tool in sharing their mission and it is incredibly successful.
Patagonia uses real-life stories and examples of people who put sustainability into practice, and they share tips and advice with their followers for living a more sustainable life. At the time of publication, they are working on encouraging people to have fewer clothes and wear them more. This cuts down on throwaway fashion and supports their company mission flawlessly.
Of course, they have other, larger missions. Patagonia is known for having a trade-in offer, where people can trade in old clothes, buy second hand, and fix clothes that have been damaged. They also share their entire supply chain so consumers know that the product they are buying is truly sustainable.
The Body Shop
Famous for soaps and skincare, the Body Shop has worked hard for its position in the market. It has been awarded the ‘Leaping Bunny’ award so buyers know that it has not been tested on animals in any way (this is the highest standard of anti-animal testing) which is extremely important for many buyers.
They have also considered their supply chain, and work extremely hard to support every aspect of it, from human rights, supporting farmers, and paying close attention to their environmental impact and the way their products are handled.
They have also supported many causes throughout the years, from AIDS awareness campaigns to Domestic Violence and the dignity of women through advertising. Its products are wrapped sustainably and they are constantly striving for more sustainable electric uses within their stores.
A favorite childhood toy of many people, Lego is a big industry good guy. They focus their sustainability efforts on children, people, and the environment. It’s a comprehensive sustainability effort that covers both environmentally and socially sustainable topics.
It follows naturally that a company such as Lego would focus on children, as their product is made and marketed for children. They work alongside UNICEF to create community days that bring people together. This works really well with the brand and creates a trust that Lego truly cares about your children.
Their environmental work is also extremely important, with a focus on sustainability, recycling, packaging, the rainforest, and reduced CO2 impact. In their offices, they encourage diversity, responsible business principles, and they promote family-friendly workspaces.
Lego’s ethical standpoint is clear, and this helps customers to justify their purchases of the product.
Making the choice to use sustainable marketing is one that sets your product or service apart from the competition. It allows your clients to have loyalty to you and allows them to justify spending a little more in favor of your product.
As you've read in this article, there are a multitude of ways to market your company and its sustainability efforts. If you would like to start planning your company's own sustainable marketing campaign, don't hesitate to reach out to our team here at Prodigium Pictures. We are experts in creating customized video content optimized for your sustainable marketing campaign, so get in touch with us today to start planning your strategy.