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A sustainable future matters. Increasingly, brands are racing to compete within the sustainability market. In this blog post we will examine what makes a brand truly sustainable and how sustainable brands can create a water-tight marketing strategy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Authenticity is KING when building and marketing a sustainable brand. Truly care for the cause and put sustainability at the heart of everything.
  2. Be transparent with your customers when it comes to your sustainability efforts, no matter what.
  3. Connection is everything – allow your customers to connect with you through content that adds real value and inspires. 

The shift towards sustainability

In the last few years, we have seen a monumental shift in attitudes surrounding sustainability. In 2019, the UN dropped what some might call a bombshell – that we had 11 years to act if we wanted to prevent irreversible climate change. Then in 2020, our world stopped, forcing many of us into a state of deep introspection. Fast forward to 2021 and it’s almost impossible to get through a day without hearing the terms ‘sustainable’, ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’, whether it be in the news, social media or word of mouth. Images of ice caps melting, forest fires and polluted cities flash across our screens regularly, acting as constant reminders of the state our planet is in.

So did the global pandemic in 2020 push us to consider our choices even more when it comes to sustainable living? Garnier’s One Step Green report found that it did create a shift in thinking – finding that 41% of people across countries said that 2020 made them think differently about their attitudes towards sustainability. In fact, in the UK, a huge 73% of people said they want to be more sustainable in 2021. 

People will no longer just buy from a brand purely because they like the product, they will purchase from a brand that truly aligns with their personal values. For many, this is showing allegiance to a brand that makes the effort to give back to the planet and genuinely cares about sustainability.  

What makes a brand truly sustainable?

The definition of a sustainable brand is one that goes beyond just providing a product/service and making revenue, but is actively dedicated and ensures the brand has successfully woven environmental, economic and social aspects into its business operations. To be truly sustainable, the brand must ensure these three categories can co-exist, as without this the buzzword ‘sustainable brand’ becomes somewhat of a facade. For example, there is no point in a business claiming to be fully ‘sustainable’ because their product is and uses eco-friendly packaging and marketing materials, but then not paying its manufacturers a decent living wage.

How to create a marketing strategy for a sustainable brand

Q. What’s a good starting point when building a marketing strategy for a sustainable brand?

A. Get inspired. There are countless examples of brands using both clever green marketing strategies and remaining genuine in their efforts. We absolutely loved Patagonia’s 2020 campaign ‘Buy Less, Demand more’, which actively encouraged its shoppers to buy second-hand versions of their products (their website allows the shopper to compare a new product with used alternatives with the click of a button), and focuses on building awareness on buying a high quality, durable, sustainable products that are designed to be worn again and again. Remember, your marketing strategy should be built around showcasing your sustainability efforts. If your efforts are genuine and focused on creating a real positive impact then these will shine through! 

Q. How do I map out timeframes when marketing a sustainable brand?

A. Start small, think long term: Building a marketing strategy for a sustainable brand isn’t something that can be done in a day. Set short term goals, but make sure your plan considers the bigger picture. What will you be doing in 3, 5, 10 years time to ensure you are still honouring your commitment to sustainability? If you are a new brand entering the market as a sustainable brand, ensure your processes match up to your marketing materials – we are talking the WHOLE package. From production to customers hands – because if you are using green/sustainable marketing as more of a tactic than a genuine effort, this will soon be uncovered! If you are a brand that is already established, start by making small changes where you can, and let your customers know you are on the road to sustainability and what your road plan is. Either way, ensure your plan is water-tight, as it’s far better to admit you have work to do to in the future to become truly sustainable than it is to mislead customers. 

Q. How do I create an impactful sustainable marketing strategy?

A. Connection is everything: Ensure your marketing strategy is woven with touch points that allow you to connect with your customers relating to your sustainability initiatives. Today’s customer is not only buying a product from a brand, but buying into the brand they feel an affinity with and believe in. Let your customer know on your website/social media/email marketing campaigns what inspired you to become sustainable or your story and allow them to learn from you! 

Q. How do I create sustainability content that adds value?

A. Show the customer you care through content: Although providing lots of info on how your product can aid the customer with their sustainability journey is great, ensure you aren’t just focusing on the hard sell. Provide thoughtful educational content on sustainability that adds value to their life through how-to blogs or even awe-inspiring video content – the options to create and inspire are endless when you get creative! Allow your passion for sustainability to shine through and get creative by using content in a variety of formats to keep things fresh. 

Q.  How do I convey sustainability through branding?

A. Presentation matters: Use of green branding goes a long way when marketing a sustainable brand, especially in the digital world where attention spans are short. Let your customers know instantly you are operating within the sustainable market by communicating this through use of natural colours such as green (commonly associated with nature and health), brown (associated with organic, earthy, wholesome qualities) or by weaving in graphics into your branding or campaigns that reflect nature, recycling and wellbeing. Coca-cola is an excellent example of tying sustainability into its branding without changing its iconic red. They have used polar bears on their branding since 1922, so putting them on every single can for its Arctic Home campaign in partnership WWF was a perfect fit for the brand. This campaign then encouraged the public to make a donation that would be matched dollar for dollar, resulting in raising 2 million dollars in just 5 months!

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How to build a sustainable social media presence

In 2021, having an authentic presence on social media is key. This is especially true as we move away from the era of static, overly edited content and towards a more raw and honest form of social media, AND through the shift to more video generated content across apps like Instagram and Tiktok. A key way to embody this when creating a sustainable social media strategy is being open and transparent on social media platforms by letting your customers know what sustainability initiatives you are working on by sharing data. Work in progress? Let them know! Or if your initiatives are seeing results – share these. Better yet, get your customers involved by encouraging them to help you to reach their goal – and don’t be afraid to have fun with it! Sodastream, the global drinks company that allows you to create fizzy drinks from home launched a campaign called ‘Don’t just share, care’ which had a tongue in cheek video about how users love to share memes and content on social platforms but don’t end up taking actions resulting in helping climate change. The Youtube campaign encouraged customers to take action and check the Sodastream website, which helps people to make active sustainability swaps through an interactive quiz, which then gives tailored answers to fit your routine. 

Make sure you don’t hold back on social media when it comes to sharing how your product/service promotes sustainability, ensuring the customer can see and easily understand the product and sustainability efforts. Engage with users in comments as much as possible – if they have questions or comments about sustainability initiatives, make sure you are friendly and responsive and provide as much information needed for them to understand how your brand promotes sustainability.  

Lastly, make sure that every statement you put out in your sustainable social media and marketing strategy can be genuinely backed up with data as it won’t take much for social media users to dig out the truth across platforms! Tiktok is a notorious app for exposing brands/people and the last thing you need is users exposing a not fully baked sustainability initiative or claim that couldn’t be verified. The app has been making serious waves by changing the way Gen Z view sustainability, particularly within the fashion industry, and is a key driver in shaping people’s views on sustainable buying, so getting this audience onboard is key!

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The future of sustainable marketing

Taking a more sustainable approach to buying and living is most definitely here to stay, and we predict that this will only continue to increase the closer we get to 2030. The key to building an effective marketing strategy for a sustainable brand is to genuinely care for the cause with a passion! If you are thinking of using sustainability as a marketing tactic, think again – this is SO much bigger than being a method of gaining new audiences and it’s a matter of necessity in both the business world and for the environment. Strive to do better, and don’t stop once you’ve met your goals! Keep pushing, as there are endless ways to become more sustainable and kinder to the planet as a business, and the responsibility is yours. Take your customers on the journey to sustainability with you and encourage them to make better choices – as a brand you have the power to inspire real change! 

In 2021, for both new and old brands, being sustainable is a matter of survival because if you don’t care – consumers will find the same product or service, but from a brand that does.

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