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6.4 Keys to Marketing a Sustainable Brand

Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss why marketing a sustainable brand is different than a mainstream product.
  2. Discuss keys to effectively market a sustainable brand.

Marketing to the “green” or sustainability market is different than marketing mainstream products. The products are held to higher standards, judged not only on the product’s effectiveness but also on delivering on societal and environmental responsibilities. When marketing sustainability it is important that dedication be given—from the initial stages of developing the product through to the products end of life—to environmental responsibilities while still delivering financial performance.

The following are guidelines on how to market sustainable products effectively:

  • Make sure your product works. Ensure the product competitively delivers on both traditional and sustainability benefits. If the product doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how “green” it is.
  • Be genuine in sustainability efforts. Fulfill the sustainability message throughout the entire product’s lifecycle—from sourcing of ingredients to the recycling process.
  • Market transparently. Consumers have come to develop a strong relationship with sustainable companies and brands. They demand transparency. Seventh Generation got into trouble with their baby wipes product when they changed the size of the packaging to have less wipes per package and did not effectively communicate the change to their consumers. Consumers felt “cheated” and lost faith in the company, which took some time to rebuild.
  • Strengthen your core. Corporate social responsibility needs to be at the core of your company’s business philosophy permeating the supply chain all the way through to treating employees fairly. Take, for example, Walmart, who has pledged to reduce their carbon footprint yet is getting sued for employee discrimination.“Plaintiffs in Walmart Suit File New Claim,” Supermarket News, Oct 27, 2011, http://supermarketnews.com/retail_financial/walmart_plantiffs_1027/?cid=upd.
  • Manage any sustainable pricing gap. The high price of many of the sustainable products discourages consumers from purchasing and actually can be perceived as a sustainability tax or surcharge. Eliminating or reducing the price barrier helps to dispel the notion that green products are not just for the elite and will encourage more people to consume better-for-the-environment products.
  • Don’t force the consumer to make big tradeoffs—whether it is price, performance, convenience, or a noisy package. Most consumers have not proven that they are willing to make significant sacrifices.
  • Have patience. Most environmentally friendly consumer behavior requires behavioral changes, and behavioral change takes time. Generation Y and millennial consumers are more apt to embrace this change faster. As more and more companies are jumping on the green bandwagon and eliminating some of the barriers, change will evolve quicker to help shape this shift toward a more sustainable future.

Key Takeaways

  • Sustainable marketing requires additional consideration when compared to marketing traditional products and services.
  • Marketers must deliver value and performance on their sustainable goods.
  • Marketers need to be creative in their marketing mix to address areas that may be perceived as deficient, such as a higher price, compared to traditional goods.

Exercise

  1. Find an example of a “green” product. Discuss the current value proposition of the product. Based on the lessons learned in this chapter, what is the company doing right in marketing its product? What is it doing wrong? What suggestions would you provide to the company to change the value proposition and why?