Sustainable marketing strategy. Where does sustainability come from? In this article, we’ll talk about the benefits of sustainable marketing. We’ll also see some examples and strategies for successful sustainable marketing. Sustainable marketing – the topic that is interesting to us today is something hard to grasp because in theory it can be used in nature, but we use it to build a consumer society based on the principles of using and discarding, which means we rarely use sustainable marketing strategies as they do not fit into current consumer realities.
Today, brands are competing with each other more than they ever had with many players, media platforms, channels, and people who can have an impact on their brand. This is why businesses must find a solution that makes them stand out from the competition to win the game. Sustainable marketing is not about spending hours and on brand-building exercises but rather a way through which companies can gain awareness of their products in the past and differentiate themselves in the future.
What is sustainable marketing?
Sustainability is about continuity, adopting behaviors and practices to ensure that the planet is inhabitable, and resources are available for future generations. In much the same way, sustainable marketing is about longevity, swapping short-term gain for long-term success.
Sustainable marketing involves not only your products but your brand’s image and strategy. Responsibility and accountability for social and environmental issues are becoming common values that most customers expect brands to display. Addressing environmental and social issues in your brand and finding sustainable alternatives is a great way to do your bit. However, your business should be aware of what it takes to achieve a fully sustainable business model and be ready to commit. It takes more than just aligning your brand with a topical issue.
Social and environmental issues exist over longer timeframes than most campaigns. These issues are not seasonal and as such need to be incorporated into a long-term plan. It is unreasonable to expect a brand to immediately shift to 100% sustainable sourcing, manufacturing, and delivery of products. Customers understand that meaningful change takes time.
Set objectives and goals
By creating a set of goals that detail what you want your brand to accomplish you are communicating honesty and authenticity to your customers, whilst keeping yourself accountable. This means being honest with what your business can afford to change, it may require a short-term loss to fully adopt new sustainable practices which will lead to long-term gain (e.g. switching to 100% recycled packaging)
Be specific about what your brand is doing to be sustainable. One aspect of your brand may be sustainable, but you need to take accountability for what is not, or what needs work. This will avoid harsh scrutiny and negative social media posts damaging your reputation, ensuring customers see your brand as an active figure in addressing social and environmental issues.
Create a long-term marketing strategy
Through long-term, thought-out strategies, sustainable marketing can result in higher value products, successful sales, and loyal customers. A sustainable marketing strategy will allow you time to establish your business and maintain sales without reverting to fads. This is what Kevin Roberts, previous CEO of Saatchi&Saatchi called ‘Lovemarks’ – loyalty beyond reason. This involves moving beyond transactional consumption to create an emotional dynamic between consumers and brands. Long-term success is built on principles. This means no repeated discounts, clickbait, or hidden T&Cs. These short-term techniques diminish your brand’s value and lose you returning customers.
Deliver your plan responsibly
It is important to remember marketing has a carbon footprint too. Ensure that printed campaigns, billboards and flyers are not created from materials that are treated with harmful or un-recyclable elements. Prioritize digital marketing by communicating with targeted advertising, social media, blogs, newsletters, and email marketing. Not only will regular social media and inbound marketing improve your SEO, but tailoring your messages to your customers, showing them relevant, quality content will increase brand value, authenticity and humanize its messages – attracting loyal customers that support your brand.
Sustainable marketing principles for small business
a. Consumer-oriented marketing
According to this sustainable marketing principle, companies need to see and organize their marketing activities from the perspective of their consumers. By witnessing the world from the eyes of consumers, the company can create marketing strategies for your small business that aid in creating permanent and sustainable customer relationships.
b. Customer-value marketing
As per the principle of customer-value marketing, companies must set most of their resources into customer value by creating marketing investments. By creating value for the customer, the company can devise online marketing strategies to capture profit from them in return.
c. Innovative marketing
As per this principle, the company should continuously seek to improve at every customer journey stage.
d. Sense of mission marketing
The company needs to define the mission in broad social terms instead of narrow product terms. This can make them better serve employees, brands, and customers. The company should also be socially responsible and profitable at the same time.
e. Societal marketing
According to this principle, the company should consider the consumer, brand, and social interests.
Now that we have looked at the sustainable marketing principles for small businesses, in the next section, I will address the question, “Why do we need to integrate sustainable marketing in business strategy?”
Importance of integrating sustainable marketing in business strategy
The importance of sustainable marketing can be judged from the very fact that a business needs a sustainable marketing concept for our survival as living beings if you see the bigger picture.
And the other important factor is, you are dealing with human beings, and there is always an emotional value attached to the surroundings if you are dealing with fellow beings. These things make sustainable marketing concepts even more critical for businesses that have gone digital as they can skyrocket your traffic.
Speaking of the first, the economic activities on which life is contingent have a significant impact on the planet and its resources. If you do not make necessary changes in your business, it may result in extensive environmental and socioeconomic consequences.
Today any ambitious company will confront several growing constraints like systems of laws and norms and pressure from customers and investors, all at the same time.
In a business environment that’s developing and changing quickly, one should take a proactive approach based on adaptation and anticipation. One way to counter this situation is by analyzing your marketing strategy and adapting to sustainable marketing.
Unless you want your rivals to overtake your business, you should accept these constraints and assume both risk and opportunities.
Now that you have understood the importance of integrating sustainable marketing in your business strategy, the next question that you might have is, “What are sustainable use practices?” I will answer this question in the next section.
Things to consider to make your marketing strategy sustainable
Developing a sustainable marketing strategy is not an easy feat. However, the challenge is well worth it. Successful entrepreneurs, leaders, and owners look at problems as opportunities. Now is your chance to embrace sustainability and execute cutting-edge strategies in the process. Here are a few things to get you started.
a. Practice recycling at the workstation
Recycling is excellent because it keeps the trash out of landfills and incinerators. If your workplace does not already have recycling, start doing it today. If your workplace is already recycling, take a moment and read the recycling laws in your area to ensure that you’re doing it correctly.
It’s easy for everyone to become lazy and put the items in the trash bin when they’re at work. The very first thing that you need to do is have ample recycling bins around your workstation. Also, do not forget to label them according to the type of items that go in them. If your city has a composting program, use it to your advantage.
b. Encourage green commuting
Every day.”, people squander 2.9 billion gallons of gas stuck in traffic, and each person forfeits $710 in productivity every year. Hence, you need to practice green commuting, which can have a massive impact on daily emissions.
Carpooling, biking, and taking public transportation are all forms of green commuting that can help your employees contribute towards sustainability both in and out of your workplace.
c. Provide remote work opportunities
Remote work is technically another form of green commute as it keeps drivers and cars off the roads. Certain positions do not allow for remote work; however, if you can get the work done outside of the office, allow your employees to take advantage of it. However, some technologies such as live visual support tools help reduce work displacements by allowing workers to provide remote assistance from home.
Remote workers have the same impact on the environment as planting trees. They get rid of 3.6 trillion tons of greenhouse gases caused by commuting annually. Working remotely also aids people in avoiding health risks connected with commuting.
d. Go digital
In the age of blockchain technology, several organizations still practice using more paper than necessary. Today, computers, smartphones, and other devices are integrated into your workplace; employ them to the fullest extent and avoid using paper as much as you can.
e. Device a sustainability committee in the office
Select a team of volunteers who can take responsibility for sustainability initiatives happening in your office. It not only creates accountability but also bolsters a culture of sustainability in the workplace. Moreover, a committee can always pitch in ideas and take decisions to make your marketing strategy sustainable.
So, what do you think – which of the practices as mentioned above will lead to sustainability? Implement these things that I have suggested above, and it will help you inculcate sustainable marketing in your business strategy.
In the next section, I will address the next question that you will be having – “What are the different sustainability challenges, and what are the different ways to overcome them?”
Principles of sustainable marketing
1. Consumer-focused marketing:
Every company should prioritize its customers and organize its activities around the needs of its customers. Rather than creating a need for a product in the market depending on your offering, companies should work their way around to satisfy the customer’s need by giving them what they want. This will result in pull marketing rather than push sales.
Companies must understand what their customers want and what their perspective is. This will create permanent and long-lasting relations with customers rather than a simple one-time buy and sell relation. When businesses focus on customers, then customers focus on businesses.
2. Customer value marketing:
Customer value marketing is creating value in the company and its products to the customer. Instead of merely giving low prices and offers, the company should create value in its offerings.
When there is value in the product, customers don’t mind paying more. For example, in 2007 and 2008, Apple was considered a pioneer in consumer electronics, focusing on mobile phones and tablets.
Apple was able to create value in their products, which attracted most of the customers. In 2020, with the launch of the new iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 pro max Apple has come a long way.
There is competition, and more options are available for customers. It is by creating value that Apple was able to reach and make itself a trillion-dollar company.
3. Innovative marketing
The company should continuously improve its existing products and offerings and try to find innovative ways to satisfy customer needs. Continuous improvement is the key to excellent and successful sustainable marketing.
Customers require innovation in new products. It is up to a company to innovate the products to be appealing, sustainable, and affordable to the customers. Innovation does not have to be in the product always. Changing the packaging, flavor, type of the product, or offering a low-cost alternative can also be considered as innovation.
For example, Coca-Cola has been a market leader in the soft drink industry for a very long time. All these decades, Coca-Cola did not change its original flavor but changed its advertising strategies, which helped them get more sales. Everybody knows that drinking soft drinks is not good for your health, resulting in long-term damage.
Therefore Coca-Cola never advertises their products as soft drinks but presents them as an experience to their customers. Thus, innovation does not necessarily have to be in the product, but it can also be how you present the product to customers.
4. Sense of mission marketing
The company should define the mission in broad social terms rather than using narrow product terms. This will also help to serve the employees in a better way.
When the companies have a sense of mission in their marketing strategies, it conveys a sense of seriousness to their customers. It also conveys the message that the company is interested in profitability from the market and is equally keen to give back something to the community.
This sense is more important than having a better profit margin. This works in long-term sustainable growth for the organization.
5. Societal marketing
This principle of sustainable marketing focuses primarily on the company, customer, and social interest. Societal marketing has become important because it creates the company’s presence amongst social classes and helps to establish the organization as a solution provider rather than a money maker.
The triple bottom line in business
For many decades, profitability has been the only bottom line of every business. The motive of every business was to get maximum profitability for their business. Most of the strategies, steps, products, offerings, and the business’s entire vision and mission were based on profitability.
Financial, environmental, and social. The net effect of all these three areas with a result in sustainability. Focusing on the finances of the business is as important as the environment and social focus. The business cannot alone thrive on profitability anymore. It is but the combination of all these three bottom lines which will help the business in the long run.
On the other hand, the business cannot stay in the market for long if it focuses only on the environment. It has to focus on profitability, as well. Similarly, focusing only on social needs and societal challenges is not desirable for a business. Every business has to focus on all these three elements equally to result in a long-term success strategy for the business.
Sustainable marketing has been hailed as an effective channel for surfacing creative campaign ideas and cultivating the organic growth of brands. Sustainable marketing is the key to a successful brand’s future, but its benefits aren’t visible overnight. It takes time, creativity, and consistency to achieve tangible results.
You need to promote products that are more environmentally friendly or fairer in terms of social-economic level. Sustainable marketing campaigns can even go well beyond their established niches to cast a wider net. Brands can cast a wider marketing net and unconventionally target customers and convert them into more responsible consumers.