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How to Harness the Power of Sustainability for Your Marketing Campaigns

According to one report, 88% of consumers surveyed said they would like brands to help them live more ethically and sustainably. As such, sustainability is an increasingly important consideration for businesses if they want to keep up with or even lead in their market. Sustainable practice is a system comprised of a great many factors, from recycling to food waste reduction to the use of sustainable energy. Considering the wide variety of practices that can be used to promote sustainability, almost any type of business can make their operations more sustainable, and, in turn, use those sustainable practices as a potent marketing tool.

What Is Sustainable Marketing?

Sustainable marketing is a type of marketing that involves the promotion of ethical products and services, often related to eco-friendly practices. By contrast, green marketing refers specifically to the promotion of eco-friendly products and services. Sustainable marketing is a more all-encompassing term that promotes products and services that contribute to the future wellbeing of our world and the people in it.

Consumer Perspectives on Sustainability

While surveys often report that consumers prefer sustainable products and services, consumer shopping habits don’t always reflect that reported preference. While there certainly is notable market growth for sustainable services and products, it is not as significant as surveys regarding consumer preference would indicate. This phenomenon is likely due to a variety of factors, such as availability, cost, and consumer knowledge.  However, younger generations show more interest than older generations (83% of millennials versus 62% of Baby Boomers, according to one report) in sustainable products and services, which indicates that investment in sustainable marketing is a sustainable business strategy.

Sustainable Marketing Practices & Channels

Just as there are many ways to approach sustainable practices in your business operations, there are many ways to approach sustainable marketing. Additionally, these approaches can be facilitated through both traditional and digital channels.

Digital Marketing Channels

An important part of sustainable marketing is choosing the right channels to facilitate your marketing strategy. This choice is highly dependent on your industry, your business goals, and your products and services. However, some digital marketing channels that can be useful for sustainable marketing efforts include:

  • Content Strategy: Content strategy marketing campaigns involve the creation and distribution of content relevant to your products or services, such as blog posts or videos. 
  • Marketing Automation: Marketing automation options allow you to take the burden of marketing efforts off of your workforce by automating repetitive tasks such as email outreach. 
  • Social Media Marketing: Social media marketing allows you to more directly engage with consumers, which is especially important for sustainability marketing efforts, as ideally, you should make consumers feel involved with your initiatives. In the case of social media marketing, it is important to choose the platforms you use based on where you can find your target demographics online. 
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing is a good way to keep your audience informed about your efforts in a way that is cheap and not particularly time-consuming. However, it is important not to spam your audience. Stick to important updates. 
  • Video Marketing: With video-based entertainment being a staple of American society, advertising on video platforms is a great way to disseminate your message and show your product in action.
  • SEO: SEO can boost the visibility of your business online and help your audience better understand the value and applications of your product. 
  • Paid Search: Paid search efforts can also boost the visibility of your business online. 
  • Display Ads: Display ads are a great way to find and reach out to your target audience, as well as build brand awareness. It is also one of the most effective means of retargeting.

Traditional Marketing Channels

Some companies may benefit from choosing primarily digital or traditional marketing channels. However, often it is useful to use a combination of the two. Some traditional marketing channels that can be useful for sustainable marketing efforts include:

  • Direct Sales: This is the use of independent distributors to overcome limitations of outreach capabilities within the company. 
  • Direct Mail: When you send promotional materials (i.e. letters, brochures) to someone’s home, this is called direct mail marketing. However, this tactic must be approached carefully in the context of sustainable marketing, and it will be helpful to utilize recyclable materials, and/or to consult experts in your particular field of sustainable marketing (i.e. solar power marketing). 
  • Event Marketing: Event marketing allows you to more directly network with potential consumers or business partners. This can be anything from a charity event to a trade show. 
  • Print Advertising: Print advertising is not dead; it all depends on your demographics. Print advertising also comes in many forms, including newspapers, magazines, posters, and billboards. 
  • Referral: Referral marketing is another term for “word-of-mouth” advertising, and is very helpful as it offers additional credibility to the value of your product or service. 
  • Radio: Radio advertising is a great way to build brand awareness through repeated exposure on channels your target audience is likely to tune-in to. 
  • Television: Television advertising is a good way to build brand awareness, build a unique case for your product or service, and show the product or service in action.
  • Telemarketing: Telemarketing can be used both for lead generation and follow-up.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Sustainability Marketing

Again, your sustainable marketing strategy should take into account the unique characteristics and needs of your business. However, there are some tried-and-true methods that businesses can typically benefit from adhering to as a foundational model.

Do’s

A business employing a sustainable marketing strategy should:

  • Set achievable goals.
  • Find inspiration from other organizations.
  • Be as transparent as possible with your consumers.
  • Make consumers feel involved in your sustainability initiatives.
  • Utilize sustainable suppliers.
  • Use digital channels to reduce waste.
  • Get certified by sustainability organizations.
  • Establish a task force dedicated to your sustainability efforts if possible.
  • Assess your marketing success by reviewing relevant metrics.

Don’ts

A business employing a sustainable marketing strategy should not:

  • Greenwash.
  • Start a sustainability initiative without a plan.
  • Do too much too soon. Start with small steps. 
  • Mislead your consumers about what your initiative entails. 
  • Go back on your promises regarding sustainability efforts.
  • Forget to consider who is in your target customer base and what their needs are.