|All firms are on the hunt for ‘the something’ that’ll set them apart from rival companies – a unique selling point that defines what it is all about. It’s the key to establishing a clear and distinctive identity that runs through every strand of your marketing activity. There’s all sorts of approaches you could take, such as committing to low prices or perhaps focusing on quality and exclusivity. But have you stopped to consider if talking up your green credentials could also be effective?
According to a new study by Unilever, 1 in 5 consumers would purchase from brands if they made their sustainability credentials clear from the outset, both on their packaging and marketing material. 1 in 3 respondents also said they would purchase a product if they felt it was doing some good for society and the environment. More than half of those polled in the UK said they feel good when they buy sustainably, so it’s clear there is a chance to tap into a potentially lucrative market. In fact, Unilever believes there is an untapped opportunity worth £817 billion just waiting to be exploited. So how exactly can this be done?
Go beyond traditional focus areas
Brands will usually talk up product performance and affordability in order to gain the attention of their target audience. But as Unilever says, brand marketers “must act quickly to prove their social and environmental credentials and show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet and communities, as well as their own bottom lines.” Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at the firm, believes this is particularly important for those businesses that want to succeed in emerging economies across Asia, Africa and Latin America, where demand for sustainable goods is even higher than it is in the UK.
Find out what your customers want
Actively seeking opinions on green issues from your existing customer base could be a great way to find out exactly what sort of changes you should make and what issues they are most concerned about. Could overhauling your supply chain be the priority, or maybe cutting the amount of waste you put into landfill? By finding out what matters to them, you can be proactive and make meaningful changes that really resonate with your audience.
Suggesting your products and services are greener than they are is dishonest and it is essential any environmental claims you make are 100% truthful and can be proven. Which leads us on to our next point…
Aim to achieve third-party certifications
A good way of demonstrating your green credentials is to be recognised for it by a third party. For instance, electrical appliance manufacturers can get certificates rating their energy efficiency. This kind of objective recognition instantly lets your target audience know you mean what you say, and it’s something you can promote across multiple platforms, from your online activity to printed catalogues, leaflets and literature to promotional merchandise; why not consider giveaways that encourage reuse or make use of recycled materials such as cotton shopping bags, travel mugs or pencils recycled from old CD cases.
Look at success stories
Unilever is the company behind household names such as Ben & Jerry’s, Knorr and Dove – and launched its Sustainable Living Plan 7 years ago. The company believes the move has had an ‘enormous impact’ since then, as brand managers feel they have an opportunity to ‘connect better with their consumers in a really meaningful way.’ This is certainly borne out by Unilever’s latest study, which shows its brands that aim to combine sustainability into their operations are developing about 30% faster than the rest of the business and accounted for about half its growth in 2016.
Don’t be preachy
By all means, shout about your eco-credentials, but your target audience aren’t necessarily waiting to hear what they need to do, so focus on what you’re doing rather than telling others what they should do.
Finally, remember that the issue of sustainability is here to stay. As environmental awareness increases, brands will come under more pressure to prove they are environmentally and socially responsible. So act now and ensure your initiatives are regularly reviewed and updated when appropriate.
Sources / Further Reading
Clearer marketing can open £800bn windfall for ‘sustainable’ brands, says Unilever Edie.net
Green brands: why sustainability stories must be matched by action The Guardian