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Understanding and Leveraging Sustainable Marketing

Posted 7th October 2021
By David Langdown

What will be the biggest trend in marketing in 2022? Whilst purpose continues to be a key pillar, it is the desire for sustainability that appears to be leading the way.

During 2020, the IBM Institute for Business Value produced research that showed that 57% of consumers were willing to change their shopping habits to be more environmentally conscious. In the same study, nearly eight out of 10 respondents stated that sustainability was important to them.

At Focus7 we are certainly seeing this amongst our clients, not least Urb-it, which provides on-foot, cycle and cargo trike last mile delivery solutions. Urb-it’s sustainability credentials are endorsed by their status as a B-Corp, but what is the big deal about sustainability and how can you leverage it?

What do we mean by sustainable marketing?

Sustainable marketing is the promotion of socially responsible products, services, and practices. While eco-friendly brands naturally work on sustainable marketing campaigns, brands that are not rooted in sustainability can still apply its principles to their strategy. Its goal is to promote a mission, not a product or service.

Martina Bretous, a HubSpot blogger, suggests that there are four key principles and strategies to sustainable marketing. 

Key Principles and Strategies

Understanding and Leveraging Sustainable Marketing by David Langdown

1. Have a larger purpose

Brands typically judge their success by the numbers. How much revenue they have or will generate in any given period is usually the biggest indicator of success. Sustainability shifts this perspective by having brands evaluate themselves by something bigger than profit.

As a brand, you have to promote something that’s bigger than your products and services and transcends any particular industry.

Do you have a clear social mission? If not, spend time discovering what that is and how your brand plays a role in furthering that mission. For instance, fashion brand Autumn Adeigbo sells clothing, accessories, and home decor items. However, its mission, as stated on its website, is to impact the lives of women on a global scale. They do so by using female-owned production facilities, employing female artisans, among other practices.

Understanding and Leveraging Sustainable Marketing by David Langdown

2. Think ahead

Sustainability marketing is all about building long-term value. Too often, brands focus on gaining immediate returns. For instance, many marketing tactics like running Google Ads and blogging are great lead generators. However, what happens once your lead has made a purchase and turned into a customer? How will you build loyalty and create brand evangelists?

Sustainable marketing looks at ways to nurture consumers during the entire buyer’s journey. Education is one way to build loyalty with your audience early on. From when they first discover you on social media to after they’ve made a purchase. For instance, a food brand could educate its audience on the importance of ethical farming on social media and continue this process post-purchase with package recycling tips.

Understanding and Leveraging Sustainable Marketing by David Langdown

3. Be customer-oriented

You might be thinking, “Isn’t being consumer-oriented what all marketing is?” Ideally, yes but that’s not always the case.

In traditional marketing, a brand will often try to push a product or service to a customer. With consumer-oriented marketing, it’s more about understanding your customers’ needs and tailoring your marketing to that. For instance, say your audience is craving more transparency in your sourcing practices or want you to be more vocal on social issues. You could use that information for your next campaign.

With so much competition out there, one way to stay customer-oriented is by innovating. We’ve all heard the Blockbuster and Netflix cautionary tale. But that speaks to a huge societal shift that Blockbuster was unwilling to make. But the truth is, innovation doesn’t always have to be so big. It can happen in small iterations – the key here is staying in touch with your audience’s needs.

Understanding and Leveraging Sustainable Marketing by David Langdown

4. Reflect sustainability in every aspect of your brand

Sustainability marketing doesn’t work if it’s not authentic. Imagine finding out a business that claims to be sustainable has failed to implement any practices to promote its mission. Consumers would distrust that brand and it would be difficult to earn it back.

Make sure your brand is looking at sustainability from a holistic lens. Are you preaching about sustainability but use unsustainable resources to build your product? Are you collaborating with brands that conflict with your mission? Is your team representative of the future you want to promote? These are the questions you should ask to determine if your brand reflects the mission you’ve set out to achieve. 

Identify the areas that need work and go to the drawing board to figure out strategies that align with your mission. Audiences don’t expect perfection, they do, however, value transparency. It’s OK – and recommended – to share where you currently fall short and how you plan to remedy these issues.

The IBM research showed that 45% of consumers stated that sustainability and/or environmental responsibility are very important considerations in selecting a brand, and a further 32% said they are important. 

Along with purpose, sustainability is here to stay, and if you need some support in building a marketing communications strategy that has these key pillars at its heart, please get in touch with us at Focus7. We will be delighted to help you.

CMO at Focus7

David Langdown is co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Focus7, a purpose-driven, brand-led growth agency. David has been a Fellow of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing since 2003. He has an Advanced Professional Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling and is a practising counsellor.

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