Written by Victoria Greenhall, marketing executive
With the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit on the minds of many businesses this autumn, our marketing assistant, Victoria Greenhall takes a look into how environmental discussions continue to impact the world of marketing and beyond.
Today, eco-friendly business practices are common topics for discussion – especially when taking a look at potential corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. But for environmental brands, being seen as eco-friendly isn’t simply a tick-box exercise to exploit the growing value of the green pound, it is a fundamental pillar within the structure of the brand.
With activists such as Greta Thunberg and governmental organisations shining a light on the environmental issues we as a planet face, changes are being actioned and felt across the board. Ultimately, buyers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of their purchasing habits and receptive to green marketing. So, what does this mean for you when promoting your business?
Get your story straight
When it comes to green marketing it is key to make sure you get it right. With many businesses such as well-known high street fashion brands H&M and Zara falling foul and being accused of ‘greenwashing’, you don’t want your business to be the next to join the long list of failed green marketing attempts. Ensuring you have a clear brand story is a great way to avoid this.
A good brand story begins with the ‘why’ much like in Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ theory which places the ‘why’ at the heart of the brand story followed by the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. This method of brand story telling has been implemented by many notable brands including the likes of Apple and Google. This technique has proven to be effective because it is all about defining your values, embracing change, and staying up to date with trends.
Effective brand stories also involve conflict – signalling that the product or service offered will overcome a challenge which ultimately benefits the end user. In the case of eco-brands this tends to be some kind of environmental problem such as the impact of plastic-waste or reducing carbon emissions. This known conflict can be implemented as a driver for emotive content marketing – promoting the brand from a human perspective rather than a business-centric position.
However, every effective brand story needs to remain consistent, concise and authentic to be impactful. David Ogilvy, the ‘Father of Advertising’, shared this sentiment – simply “tell the truth, but make it fascinating“. The question is how do we fascinate?
Power in the purpose
Creating an engaging brand story is just the beginning to win over your target audience. You need to clearly identify the purpose of your brand and its story. This is where incorporating your values and mission statement in your messaging can work wonders especially if you align yourself with other eco-brands – affirming your brand’s position. Remember to call the target audience to action – as this helps to highlight the purpose of your efforts and the action that a consumer can take to align with a shared value or reach a shared goal. This could be a simple swap to a greener product offering which uses recycled packaging and sustainable ingredients, or it could be something more.
One of the best known environmentally conscious active wear retailers, Patagonia, implemented a sustainability campaign which effectively drew attention to the problem of excessive consumption juxtaposed with their product offering, which is designed to last and, in this case, formed a solution for the target audience. The provocative “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign called to attention Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability over profits in 2011 and many other brands have followed suit since. While some may question the logic behind deterring your consumers from purchasing your products – campaigns with shock-value can result in your brand being front-of-mind for your target audience.
Don’t forget to plan
Without a clear strategy, your brand story and purpose may not be future proof. Reactive marketing and hopping on trends can be a very efficient method of marketing, however being proactive will get you most points in the race to the top of the eco-business leader board. Many well-known corporations are paving the way when it comes to green strategies, implementing clear KPIs and SMART objectives.
Coca-Cola’s “Plant Bottle” campaign addresses three primary goals which targets recycled packaging, reducing the litter in our environment and bringing people together with clear measurables. Similarly, IKEA wants to “lead[ing] the way by being a good example”. The furniture retailer aims to do this by phasing out single-use plastic, using fewer parts in their product offerings and achieving zero emissions on home deliveries by 2025. Although ambitious targets like these may not be feasible for your business, a clear strategy that focuses on the green elements of your organisation can still be worthwhile.