Do You Believe in Sustainable Marketing?

As we go through numerous shifts in technology, values, and principles of doing business, we can notice corporations being required to follow the megatrend of sustainability. Society nowadays demands for a social awareness of organizations, and requires that they become accountable for their decisions. Among many things, this trend is also changing the way marketing is being done, and how it’s being perceived by customers. But just how much are people buying the idea of sustainable marketing?

I am already visualizing the reaction of generation X folks, as they see this title. Complete fallacy, they will think, while still clicking the article with the intention of feeding their good old consumerist ego. To their personal belief, there is no such thing as marketing that can actually promote goods for what they are; otherwise, no one would really buy them.

That is because they lived through an era in which people had little access to information, so they were free to proclaim false qualities. In an era characterized by a sick urge to buy stuff that they do not need for the purpose of showing off to the unfortunate and/or more fortunate masses. The ‘bougie’ image is what mattered the most, and being bougie meant that you were constantly promoting a fancy lifestyle, concerned with wealth and respectability – the bourgeoisie wannabe. And it’s not like we’re completely ripped off of this category yet.

But that’s why marketing back in the days was as easy as a Sunday morning. All you needed was a simple yet catchy phrase to represent your brand, and invite people to ‘just do it.’

Or you could add some pretty bright colors, with a summerish sound that would make people forget about what you were advertising about in the first place by having them actually focus on alter, non-related content.

The era of ‘there’s something fishy about that brand’

As millennials are taking over, doubt is the main component of their mindset. The good thing about this generation is that we can easily split their beliefs into groups. If back in the days we had two movements such as consumerism and environmentalism that defined what marketing used to be, today we can identify groups of environmental millennials that care and ‘environmental’ millennials who want to look like they care, by all costs.

Either way, fine by us! Each group will go ahead and become loyal to that brand that manages to promote cruelty-free products or to that company, which simply does not seem to be greenwashed. They will spread the word, share the hell out of their posts, and worship the work they do.

As I mentioned above, people are driven by different reasons. Some because they really believe in the same principles, and some others simply want to add an environmental-friendly post to their Facebook wall attributes. Fake it till’ you make it, they say!

However, sticking to that ‘Corporate greenwash’, what is it anyway, and how does this term impact the way marketing is delivered in our contemporary times? Greenwashing refers to marketing attempts that provide consumers with fake environmental friendly qualities over specific products, or over the reputation of a company while covering up a dark opposite foundation.

What I like about millennials is that they have developed an eye for pointing out corporate greenwashing. They will read the vague phrases such as “best in class ecology”, questionable endorsements like “green certified by ecomaniacs” and shallow food descriptions that refer to plants not even relevant to the product. Ignorance is bliss, no? That’s what you could think before we could google say, the meaning of Ayahuasca and get tons of information in return.

Brands can go ahead and find the most diverse out of superlatives that describe their product qualities. Hell, you can be the most amazing out of those dairy-free yogurts, but if you are representing your brand through a plain descriptive cliche, folks will not fall for it.

What’s currently poppin’

Sustainable marketing should be sincere, transparent and real. This is way easier now that marketing has mostly gone digital. Consumers are looking for different messages conveyed to them through different platforms.

Needless to say, optimistic approaches and motivational quotes are getting way too corny. People have decided to move on through becoming more realistic (sometimes even nihilistic) about their surroundings by embracing messages that will provide one with cold showers and reality checks. For instance, the famous brand Nike was crucified by protests, when it was found out that working conditions for its laborers were mortifying. It went down from ‘Just do it’ to ‘just don’t do it’ for them.

That is why slogans and campaigns that have controversial content are becoming huge. Patagonia’s campaign motto on over-consumption is ‘Don’t buy this jacket‘, and Adbusters, as an anti-consumerist movement marks “Buy Nothing Day” every November as a reaction against Black Friday, by asking the masses to participate by not participating.

As idealistic as it may sound, people are actually responding. The ads are different, they have puns within, or they are sarcastically targeting famous brands that sell through firmly opposing the principles of selling sustainably. Either way, they are tackling social issues, and that’s exactly the kind of marketing millennials dig right now.

But what about companies who started out long ago, and are too scared to move on to different innovative concepts. How do you persuade a whole team into thinking that sustainable marketing is the new black? Thinking long-term, it is actually a win-win situation. If you start off from scratch and educate a whole crew on the benefits of having an environmental-friendly strategy, you will be setting concrete examples of sustainable development in the first place. And that real transparent marketing that the masses are seeking, will overflow naturally if you personalize with the buyers.

It is on the benefit of both the consumer and the company because the customer will appreciate your effort in delivering a bigger picture of the pricing of goods or services through accessible strong social networks, cooperative partnerships with other businesses lending credibility, and common purpose. Especially if this will be done through campaigns and efficient work that is able to touch the hearts of the grumpiest of people, I’m talking Grinch level.

That goes for the companies that want to retain customers, instead of continuing a never-ending cycle of gaining new customers whose curiosity only lasts for a little while until they move on to options they find better.

So what are the core values we should be talking about?

  • Consumer-oriented marketing
  • Customer value marketing
  • Innovative marketing
  • Societal marketing

This fantastic four, as our great combo of values, requires a great amount of work. We used to create digestible bits that pleased the eye of the consumer, now we solemnly switch to creating bits of content that can ease the hearts of our loving environmentalists. All eyes are on us, as there is no pace that can compete with the current pace of digital marketing on the rise.

Anyhow, there you have them listed. You might as well stick these values on the wall, try to memorize them as you convince thyselves that you are actually putting them to practice. Or maybe you should not… Yeah, after all, just don’t do it! 

Photo: Shutterstock / design: Martina Advaney


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