18 Jan 2023
Sustainability is a top concern for consumers in 2022, but how effective is it as a promotional strategy for brands?
And, effectiveness aside, how do you run promotions around sustainability without coming across as disingenuous?
In this blog post we’ll take a look at sustainability and explore its viability as a promotional tool. We’ll also explain some of the techniques our customers and other well-known businesses use to run their own sustainability-focused promotions.
Sustainability and environmentalism have been part of everyday consumer discourse for a long time now. But there’s been a significant shift in attitudes towards sustainability over the past five years.
The COVID-19 pandemic played a key role in this, but it mainly accelerated the already green-conscious outlook of younger generations.
According to the 2021 Global Sustainability Study, 85% of consumers have altered their purchase behavior to be more sustainable in the past five years. As a result brands have had to adapt their stance towards sustainability in order to keep up with consumer preferences.
Just as sustainability consciousness has become the norm for consumers, it’s also become essential for brands. Rather than being a differentiating factor, sustainability is now a necessity.
As reported by the ISEAL Alliance, 98% of businesses who used and displayed sustainability standards reported benefits for sales and marketing. This is unsurprising when you consider that 89% of internet users in China, the UK and the US think that brands should do a lot more to reduce their carbon impact (Wunderman Thompson).
Because sustainability is such an important factor for consumers, it has become a popular theme for sales promotions and other consumer-oriented incentives.
Anything that ties sustainability with tangible benefits for customers can boost a brand’s marketing and sales efforts. But what’s the best way to go about implementing sustainability oriented promotions?
There are a few things to remember when considering this question:
Sustainability is a major selling point for most customers, but brand authenticity is just as important.
If you don’t live up to your promises or claims around sustainability, you run the risk of developing an ‘authenticity gap’. This is where the customer’s experience of your brand misses their expectations based upon the way you’ve advertised yourself.
This ties into ‘greenwashing’ – exaggeration of a business’s environmental consciousness or efforts towards sustainability, which has the potential to seriously damage brand image.
Any claims you do make have to be based in reality with real tangible action that customers can see.
One brand that lives up to its bold claims around sustainability and environmental consciousness is Arc’teryx, which runs a full-scale recommerce program. Customers can trade in old clothes for 30% of retail price, and Arc’teryx uses the old materials to create new clothes.
A number of our customers run their own unique sustainability-oriented promotions. They have to weave sustainability into their promotions in different ways, depending on their business model and industry in which they operate.
One of our customers is a green energy supplier operating in APAC. They’re perfectly suited for sustainability based promotions because sustainability is one of their core brand values.
They opted for a referral program that combines standard sign up discounts with the option for participants to offset their carbon footprint via Nul. Each customer can choose between a variety of different carbon offset projects when they complete a successful referral.
This unique referral program is a fantastic example of a business combining value based incentives (which all customers like) with sustainability (something that more and more customers are paying attention to).
Other brands take a different approach to sustainability oriented promotions. Take car sharing brand Share Now for example.
Sustainability is a key selling point of Share Now’s service too. Firstly, car sharing is more environmentally friendly than individual car ownership and, secondly, a significant portion of Share Now’s Fleet is electric.
Share Now capitalizes on these key selling points in its messaging, and mainly relies on monetary incentives (rate discounts, etc.) when running promotions.
But they now run their own personalized loyalty program via Talon.One that offers customers a huge variety of incentives and features to encourage them to car share.
Other emobility brands encourage customers to replace the batteries on their scooters using in-app credit. This reduces wear and tear on the scooters themselves, and saves the company from having to send drivers out to replace batteries around the city.
As we’ve shown above, there are plenty of ways to link sustainability with a variety of promotional techniques, both directly and indirectly.
Value is a key factor for consumers when making purchase decisions. In fact, it’s actually more important than sustainability, so combining sustainability with promotions has huge potential benefits for businesses.
But, to avoid an authenticity gap, it’s important to actually invest in becoming a sustainable business. This means committing to sustainability as a core principle of your brand and, as much as possible, producing products sustainably, investing in sustainable processes, using sustainable suppliers, etc.
A good first approach to sustainable promotions is to encourage recycling and reducing waste. These are points that practically every business can work towards with their customers. The fun part is working out how to do this with the promotional capabilities available to you.
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