The Emergence of Green Consumers
The routes of modern green marketing or ‘corporate environmentalism’ stretch as far back as the 1990s. A period also known as the ‘Earth Decade’, it was born at a time when many began taking much greater notice of the impact humanity was having on the planet.
Synonymous with the emergence of political figures and environmental campaigners such as Democratic Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore. It began with the IPCC’s first climate change report and came to a close, with the global population reaching six million people.
However, despite the hugely controversial nature of the topic, the issue’s awareness would see a new type of shopper emerge. A typically younger demographic called ‘’green consumers’ would soon be willing to alter their consumption patterns and brand allegiances to preserve the environment.
Fast forward to today, and although these feelings are still most prominent amongst younger people, older cohorts are catching up. Research from Nielsen IQ in 2019 demonstrates this, with 73% of global consumers saying they “would definitely or probably change their consumption behaviour to reduce their impact on the environment”. It’s an incredible statistic showing a growing level of personal responsibility, and a feeling we want our favourite brands to share. So much so that in reality, in 2022, there is no such thing as a ‘green consumer’, simply a consumer.
This attitude shift has been the catalyst for the global use of green marketing in recent years. And now, a niche activity once targeted at a few dedicated consumers is fundamental to international brands and their corporate social responsibility. Its appeal is understandable and offers many far-reaching benefits to the brand and society. Aligning with an important societal issue it’s an opportunity to do good, create shared value, and balance profit with impact.
However, the bar is exceptionally high after years of brands looking to make a quick buck on the back of less than genuine environmental concerns. A notoriously delicate subject to tackle, it’s essential that you leave no stone unturned when conducting activities. Only then will you be able to break through this profound level of consumer scepticism and earn trust?
Read on to learn more about four principles that have proven themselves to be critical to the success of any green marketing campaign.
Our Green Marketing Tip Sheet
1. Be proactive, Not Reactive.
Multiple academic publications in recent years have highlighted the first and most common hurdle facing brands. And that is winning the battle for legitimacy in the court of public opinion. Facing an immensely sceptical and well-informed consumer, your challenge is to convince them of your impact and desire for this to be both lasting and positive.
There is no secret sauce or magic combination to achieve this goal. One of the biggest factors is simply being proactive and not reactive. Consider the impact you want over the next 10 – 15 years, not 10 – 15 months. This means building green marketing into your broader business strategy. And, although your problem may be similar to others, perhaps you can bring a new perspective. Maybe you can bring innovation to the table or tackle a new issue fast approaching.
One business that ticks these boxes and has been doing so effectively for years is beauty brand Lush. The perfect case study, its environmental policy considers the impact of everything from its use of packaging and water to how they communicate. Click here to see for yourself.
Being proactive ultimately questions whether you are willing to acknowledge and take ownership of your impact as a brand. Taking on an issue such as the environment presents no easy options or quick ways outs. Instead, use your platform to lead, educate, work together and inspire action, and consumers will join you on your journey, wherever it may lead.
2. Be Transparent
Many brands face difficulty because their positive impact is often invisible to the naked eye. Unlike highly successful public environmental campaigns around topics such as picking up litter or dog waste, most of the initiatives brands invest in will have no noticeable impact on consumers.
Whether your campaign centres on sourcing materials or planting trees, it is a common problem. And as a result, over the years, many brands have sadly chosen to exploit this with practices ranging from highly misleading taglines to flat-out lies.
Thankfully, with access to so much information, consumers no longer simply have to take a brand’s claims at face value. Instead, they are shifting the balance of power, with their trust to be earned and not simply taken as given. Therefore, when it comes to modern environmental marketing, being transparent is a characteristic we can’t emphasise enough.
Why not open a dialogue with consumers and offer as much information about your initiative as possible. People understand you can’t solve every problem, so be upfront about what you are doing and what you are not. Explain its benefits and pitfalls in a way that is understandable and easy to find. You have nothing to hide, so don’t act like it.
One business that illustrates transparency well is the Swedish fashion brand ASKET. Operating in an industry that accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and where 60% of sustainability claims have been found to be misleading, their ‘Impact Receipt’ is a breath of fresh air.
As a result of a partnership with the Research Institute Sweden, ASKET can calculate the CO2 emissions, water, and energy consumption of their clothing. Complimented by their ‘trace supply chain’, their creative solution allows shoppers to understand the impact of their clothing before purchasing. Click here to learn more.
3. Find the Right Cause Brand Fit
Compared to our first two points, our discussion around cause brand fit is brief but no less important. Referring to the relationship between a brand and the cause with which it is aligned, the topic has been the focus of much research in the field of cause marketing.
Simply put, it stipulates that this relationship’s strength can significantly impact a campaign’s effectiveness. Take Pepsi’s 2017 advert featuring Kendal Jenner as the perfect case study, to illustrate this point perfectly.
When it comes to green marketing, always choose to focus on an issue close to your brand or a topic upon which you have a direct impact. Consumers must be able to immediately see the rationale behind your initiative if it is to be seen as credible. A point that becomes even more important if you partner with charitable causes or other not-for-profit organisations where there is a significant and robust positive public sentiment.
Unfortunately, this was precisely what Pepsi did wrong, as they attempted to involve their brand in a highly publicised and emotional charger issue. With which it had no logical connection.
4. Make Involvement Easy
With so many brands conducting various types of green marketing campaigns, standing out and generating engagement is one of the toughest challenges. That’s why it is so crucial that you make it as easy as possible for people to get involved.
Carbon offsetting schemes (particular in the aviation industry) are good examples of what not to do here. In many cases, these initiatives are highly promoted but hard to find. And, even those which are, end up passing on the cost directly to consumers, with the airline taking little responsibility.
Effective green marketing campaigns acknowledge that people are committed to reducing their impact. However, they also recognise that the vast majority are not in a position to make drastic lifestyle changes or pay a premium for produce or service that can do so. This often means keeping it simple, with initiatives worked into the buying process and requiring little extra action on the part of the consumer.
Take Patagonia’s Black Friday sale from 2016 as an example. In this scenario, the brand announced that it would be donating 100% of its profits to not-for-profit organisations that work to protect the planet for future generations. With such a simple message and way to get involved, the brand vastly exceeded its initial sales forecast of $2 million to achieve a staggering $10 million.
The Wrap Up
As a creative agency, we are behind any brand using their marketing efforts as a platform for positive environmental change. And at Elastic, we are proud to represent several clients doing just that.
Although it’s a complex field to navigate, we hope these four tips can offer insight and demonstrate the hugely positive impact you can have through honest, transparent and well-planned green marketing.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by,
The Elastic Team