Wondering how to approach sustainable marketing? We explain the best way to market sustainability and showcase what ethical brands are doing that you might be missing…
Choosing to make and market sustainable products is an admirable choice. But just as creating a sustainable product is often more challenging than choosing the path of least resistance, marketing sustainable products can be a unique challenge, too.
Here are 8 useful rules for marketers on how to ethically and effectively market your sustainable products.
Ethical consumers are often skeptical consumers — and with good reason. Don’t feel the need to exaggerate your product’s impact or benefits to appeal to them. Many ethical consumers are just looking for a better choice, not a perfect one. Being honest and speaking plainly is a great way to earn credibility and show them just that.
Impact reports are often a great way of communicating your environmental efforts. They give insight into brands development areas and ways of working. Most eco-centric brands will produce one on a yearly basis and will share it publicly. Often containing insights on their social and environmental impact, their achievements, and what they are working on to guarantee a more sustainable future.
Many consumers and advocates of sustainable products are interested in more than just environmental justice. Concerns about your workers’ rights, supply chain, and corporate values are often just as important to your consumers. So, where applicable — on places like product pages, long-form content and disclaimers — don’t forget to mention these details and explain why they are the way they are. If your process is in great shape, you’ll win points with your consumers. If it’s not ideal, but you explain that you’re working toward a better solution or that there just isn’t one, you’ll earn points for honesty.
A rule to remember: Whatever you don’t tell a skeptical consumer, they’ll imagine for themselves. And with all the greenwashers and grifters out there, their imagination will often be worse than reality. Veja, an ethical shoe brand, explained its production process end to end for interested consumers and investors. It was a great visualisation of the efforts they are making across their supply chain.
At the end of the day, you’re creating an advertisement or a piece of marketing content, so it must follow the same best practices: Focus on the problem you’re solving, the value to the consumer AND the value to the environment. Otherwise, you’ll miss any consumer’s biggest question: “What’s in it for me?”
Your product can only make a difference if your company succeeds, so don’t feel bad about prioritising benefits over politics when it’s appropriate.
A good rule of thumb for sustainable marketers is that if you avoid the cost question, someone else will answer it for you. So, why not contribute to that conversation yourself? Explain the cost transparently, put it in context of the environmental benefit/trade-off and let the consumer decide for themselves if that’s worth it.
A common mistake that sustainable product marketers make is talking about the statistics around how many consumers want sustainable products or how much of a market there is for this. While this makes sense if you’re looking to raise funds or speaking to your investors, consumers don’t care. If they want sustainable products, they already know that. Focus on the value to them and the environment.
If you’re a brand making a sustainable product, then there’s a beautiful story to tell. Whether that’s in a blog post, a values or about us page or something more engaging like a video, find a place to go in-depth on your product. Buyers love to know more and often seek content — like online reviews, videos or blogs — to learn more about even small potential purchases. Not every product page or banner ad will have room for this, but it still belongs somewhere.
If you’re a reseller, then featuring this type of info on the product page can be helpful for conversion and transparency.
Whether you’re a marketer or just a person sharing a story about a sustainable product you love, you’ll attract nay-sayers who say things like, “I’m not paying more for that!” or “I bet that doesn’t even make a difference!” How you respond to these comments is a huge opportunity for your brand — and a huge potential risk if you fumble it.
Depending on your brand voice, you may want to be kind and understanding or humorous and snarky. Either way, don’t forget to reply with facts and answer the question at the core of the comment. Even friendly users will notice if you dodge a question, and for social media marketers, a well crafted response can earn even more credibility and positive sentiment than a well crafted ad.
Many people who make and market sustainable products are champions of a broader lifestyle of sustainability. However, you shouldn’t assume or comment on other aspects of the customer’s lifestyle just because they’re interested in your product. For example, eating meat is considered by many environmentalists to be unsustainable. However, just because someone is interested in your reusable shopping bag, doesn’t mean they’re interested in veganism. (Maybe one day!)
So, make sure you’re not injecting your ads, website or marketing content with extraneous socio-political messages, because you may turn off well meaning consumers who disagree with you on other points of sustainable living.
Some of the best marketing is reputational marketing — so living up to those sustainable values as a company is a great way to both lessen your negative impact and better your brand.
Showing your customers that you’re serious about your values is a great way of instilling confidence in an age of consumer skepticism. Run your marketing, production and business sustainably and you’ll build a loyal following of ethical consumers- guaranteed.
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