10 years ago, the terms ‘organic’, ‘free range’ and ‘biodynamic’ were things you’d only hear during a barefoot drum circle in the local park. These days, I walk past an About Life supermarket, a Woolworths with an entire aisle dedicated to ‘healthy living’, two organic juice places and a small independent organic supermarket – all on the same block!
Yes, consumers have been leaning towards ‘green’ for some time now. In fact, a 2015 global survey by Nielsen found that 66 per cent of all consumers will pay more for sustainable brands. And willingness to pay more is higher in millennials (73 per cent, up from only 50 per cent in 2014).
With global millennials leading the way in green engagement, should businesses commit resources to flaunting digital eco-ness? Can every business go green?
‘Green marketing’ involves products that have a minimal or positive impact on the environment, and content promoting environmental wellbeing that was once considered niche is now becoming more mainstream. Companies such as Timberland and Ben & Jerry’s are big environmental activists, while adventure company Patagonia allows customers to look up where material in their clothes is sourced from. Green marketing is powerful. It can lead to increased sales, elevated brand equity and foster brand loyalty through customer engagement on a deeper ethical level.
Should everyone do it?
No doubt all businesses should engage in sustainable practices. Aside from the ethics behind it, being sustainable actually makes good business sense for long-term profits as methods relying on finite resources won’t be sustainable in the long term – a shift in production approach is inevitable.
Going beyond sustainable practices and actually marketing your business as green is a legitimate positioning strategy and can provide a competitive advantage. In saying this, green marketing isn’t as easy as simply sharing more environmentally friendly content to your customers – businesses really need to ‘walk the walk’.
Not every brand can – or even should – position themselves as green. As more and more companies try to capitalise on the trend, the space will eventually become oversaturated. As green becomes the new norm, being ‘only green’ will no longer be a sustainable differentiator.
Who should do it?
Those in the food industry, FMCGs or other producers who use tangible manufacturing bases are more prone to using green marketing as there is a more obvious link in consumers’ minds between creating the product and its impact on the environment. When it comes to these products, taking a green marketing approach should be reactive rather than proactive. The aforementioned Nielsen survey identified that 45 per cent of global consumers are more swayed to purchase a product if it indicates a commitment to the environment over ones that don’t. A small certification symbol on your packaging could be the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity, especially with impulse buyers.
But green marketing won’t work on everyone. Like every strategy, it depends on your customers are their purchase drivers. More price-sensitive customers won’t be willing to pay more for eco-friendly products or services (as higher production costs are usually absorbed by the customer). There is also a wide spectrum of engagement for ‘green’ attributes among customers.
Most people who buy green products just want to feel good about what they’re buying without going overboard.
Paying a couple of dollars extra for free-range eggs? Sure. Paying a couple of dollars extra for ice cream that only contains free-range eggs? Probably not. Finally, there are consumers who just don’t care – all green marketing efforts will be ineffective on them.
Digital and service-based industries don’t traditionally engage in activities that heavily impact the environment. For these businesses, focusing on other corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives is a better way to engage consumers (that’s not to say ‘going green’ should be discounted altogether). For example, in 2014 Westpac was named the most sustainable company in the world at the World Economic Forum. That’s right: in the entire world! Will a huge number of consumers switch to Westpac just because it topped the list? Probably not. There are much bigger drivers – from products and services to banking preferences – that are more relevant to customers. Although Westpac’s sustainability platform is present, specifically green marketing, the core digital engagement strategy isn’t centred on sustainability for this very reason.
Things to consider when producing green marketing content
– Be authentic: If consumers think you are only producing content to capitalise on people’s ethics rather than actually caring about the environment, it will turn them off.
– Be creative: A range of people read green content – not just the hardcore ecowarriors. The National Marketing Institute estimates that approximately 80 per cent of consumers are engaged by green marketing at some level. So find fun and creative ways to stand out – there’s plenty of content out there! Check out Ben & Jerry’s mouth-watering Join the Climate Movement campaign video as an example.
Ben & Jerry’s mouthwatering ‘Join the Climate Change’ campaign video.
– Be transparent: In an age where everything can be shared in an instant, trying to engage in green marketing can very quickly turn sour if the company isn’t transparent. Companies such as Apple have been accused of ‘greenwashing’ by using green marketing without actually being more environmental.
– Be prepared: If you post on social media about how amazing your new green product is, it can easily draw attention to the fact that your other operations aren’t environmentally friendly – something consumers might not have thought of in the past.
H&M Conscious is a good example of how to successfully market a new environmentally friendly line. The collection has been integrated into their broader digital strategy and is more sought after than their normal range by having exclusive collaboration with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs from the Louvre in Paris!