1. Doing Good Isn’t Enough
Some of us on the Live Creative Studio’s marketing and branding team have led or contributed creative design to “cause marketing” campaigns in our careers. This has been a common approach for decades for business, particularly for large corporations. Essentially it’s a one-off “do good” campaign with lots of PR and a picture of a large check (with an even bigger number on it!) made out to a non-profit organization doing well-meaning work in the community.
While donations of this kind are important, they do not fundamentally change the culture, procurement, product development, packaging, or business systems as is the case with a truly sustainable business. A sustainable business sets its priorities and goals against a triple bottom line principle that benefits people, planet, and makes a profit doing so. Would we need so many charities if companies paid a living wage, didn’t harm our environment, our air, our water or local people when making their products?
Green Marketing Pro Tip: Communicate the breadth and depth of why your sustainable business is making a difference. As Simon Sinek says: People don’t buy what you do. They don’t buy how you do it. They buy why you do it. This doesn’t mean your marketing can’t be fun—it absolutely should be if that’s your brand’s tone! The idea is for your marketing and branding to delight and inspire your customers and followers, as they are a key part of the solution by buying your products or services. (Download our free Purpose Brand Identity Guide for more on this topic.)
2. Your Purpose Must Be True
Sustainability is not an “add-on”. It’s a way of doing business; it’s the ethos of the business itself. More and more companies are being targeted for “green washing” when they come out with a feel good campaign, but everyone knows that their business is still responsible for polluting the ocean or child labor, etc.
Purpose-driven Marketing Pro Tip: The key green marketing strategy for staying true to your triple bottom line purpose is to stay authentic and be bold. Sustainability is not a destination; it’s a continual process of improvement. Sharing the pros and cons of your struggle to find just the right eco-friendly packaging, for example, with your customers and loyal fans builds trust and respect. Your customers will know if you’re authentic or not. Authentic marketing leads to an emotional connection; people choose the same brands over and over again because they know your purpose is true.
3. Change Starts at the Top
Have an idea that you think will grow your marketshare and deepen your sustainability goals? If you are an eco entrepreneur or work for a large company, in either case it’s important to first pilot the concept and then build buy-in and support from the top based on your results (assuming they were good!). Real and lasting change starts at the top so don’t go it alone if you want to be successful.
Green Marketing Pro Tip: Unless you are the CEO or an ecopreneur, then your marketing strategy will have an internal focus to build buy-in and support for your idea. We recommend that you always pitch both the business case (i.e. what is the return on investment or ROI and the potential market) for your idea as well as the social and/or environmental benefits.
Create a concept logo to build your pitch deck and remember to use more visual aids like beautiful photographs and concept slogans as you make your case to those with influence in the company. Once you have a few influential champions of the idea on your team, and have converted a few influential neigh sayers as well (who helped you to fine-tune your idea!), then get a meeting with the c-suite. Best of luck on your pitch!
4. Lift Up Diverse Voices
A real leader surrounds herself with people who not only have greater expertise in critical areas, but who also represent different perspectives and are diverse in terms of gender and race. The key to a great leader is inspiring such a diverse workforce to bring forth new and innovative ideas in a culture of collaboration.
Green marketing tip: To embrace a culture of diversity also means understanding your audience and where they are coming from. Ask yourself these questions: Do they speak multiple languages? Could your campaign be multi-lingual? Does your campaign reflect your audience in tone and style? Does your campaign photography represent diversity?
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Take A Stand
If you are clear on your purpose as a business then taking a stand on an issue is fairly clear cut. The beauty of most truly sustainable brands is that you are always looking for ways to deepen your work to achieve sustainability goals—from product design and packaging to energy and water innovation and more. The more transparent you are as a company on both the achievements and the challenges you face while striving to achieve your sustainability goals, the more trust you are going to instill in your fans.
Trust cannot be bought. It is earned. Standing up for a social and/or environmental issue that you are already strong in further extends your brands promise (i.e. your product or service is part of the solution to a problem. For example, “earthwash” has innovated an environmentally friendly detergent sheet, which solve the twin problems of ever more plastic bottles and polluted water entering our rivers and oceans.
Eco Marketing Pro Tip: If your company offers a solution to single-use plastic, consider “taking a stand” by launching an educational “marketing” campaign about plastic waste in our oceans. Or if your company offers a solution to fast fashion’s problem of unfair labor practices, then consider taking a stand by inviting followers/customers to sign a petition against child or slave labor. And so on.
So many think marketing is about selling, when really it’s about building trust in your brand through marketing strategies and tactics. Loyal fans will follow you where you lead. Now it’s time for sustainable brands to lead authentically and with courage to weave a new narrative for commerce—one that benefits us all.
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Live Creative is a branding and marketing agency as well as a community hub for sustainable innovation, business, and lifestyle tips. Our Creative Studio offers authentic marketing, branding, and sustainable business expertise to ethical, sustainable, and purpose brands. And our Lifestyle Team brings the curious and the conscious inspiring sustainable lifestyle, zero waste tips, and examples of innovation changing business for good.