With consumers more environmentally conscious than ever before, brands are under pressure to increase their green marketing efforts. The public have high expectations when it comes to brands taking responsibility for their environmental impact. A study by Unilever reveals that a third of consumers now choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

With this in mind, brands are moving on from just price point and product quality strategies to win the public over. They are now also doing battle over their green credentials. Let’s take a dive into green marketing and the brands that are leading the way…

What is green marketing?

Green marketing refers to selling products or services by illustrating their environmental benefits.  Brands are highlighting how they are evolving their missions and practices from being revenue-driven to environmentally aware. Also known as environmental marketing or ecological marketing, green marketing touches every aspect of a business, from production and packaging to advertising and PR.

Examples of green marketing…

Sustainable packaging

Sustainable packaging has become a huge concern to consumers.  A study by Ipsos shows that 71% of people globally agree that single-use plastic products should be banned as soon as possible.  Government legislation has also come into play. For example, the UK government passed a law requiring shops to charge 5p for plastic carrier bags. Brands are therefore under increasing scrutiny to champion environmentally friendly packaging. 

Starbucks was among the first to respond to the public backlash against plastic straws. In 2018 they pledged to completely remove them from their supply chain by 2020.  By being a frontrunner in leading the charge against single use plastic, Starbucks benefitted from positive publicity. 38% of consumers in the US stated that they were more favourable towards Starbucks after the announcement. 

Starbucks green marketing

Helping consumers avoid eco-shame

Being environmentally conscious used to be an aspirational lifestyle choice. Nowadays sustainable products have become more mainstream. This means that being environmentally conscious with your purchasing decisions has become less about the status of opting-in and more about the shame of opting-out. 

Brands in 2020 can therefore help consumers avoid eco-shame by making it easier for them to shop according to their preferences. They can create products and services that are more accessible, affordable and inclusive. KFC and Burger King have done this in response to the plant – based food trend. Both fast food chains have added vegan alternatives of fan favourites to their menus.  During Veganuary, KFC sold one “chicken” burger every three seconds in the UK. In the US Burger King’s ‘Impossible Whopper’ was one of the chains biggest ever launches. 

kfc green marketing

Social media is king 

Conversations around the environment are moving at light speed on social media. Campaigners have a new platform to spread their message. Consumers are becoming better informed and therefore more vocal themselves on environmental topics. We took a dive into climate change conversations online to uncover the the who, what, where, and why amongst millions of mentions from online users. Read the full report here

Brands have a great opportunity to connect with these communities on social media. Marketers can leverage social media to promote their green marketing efforts by creating content that is engaging and share-able, and which appeals to the issues close to the hearts of social media users. Social media users are increasingly keen to promote positive initiatives. A great example of this was seen during Patagonia’s Black Friday campaign. The outdoor clothing company pledged to donate all Black Friday profits to grassroots environmental groups.

Patagonia Black Friday

Led by the hashtag #loveourplanet, social media got behind this initiative, including Emma Watson and Al Gore who shared Patagonia’s posts with their followers. Patagonia’s sales reached $10m compared to their estimate of $2m. Also, 70% of online purchases were made by first-time customers. So despite losing out on revenue that day, Patagonia’s Black Friday campaign was a masterclass in using social media for green marketing. They built a new consumer base, appealed to their existing environmentally-conscious customers and generated huge positive PR for the brand. 

Being authentic 

Consumers are savvy. They have the means to do their homework on a brand’s environmental claims and will quickly call out a brand if they feel they’ve misrepresented their green credentials. This is known as ‘greenwashing’.

Transparency is therefore key. One brand making their mission clear and boosting trust and loyalty in the process is IkeaIkea has created their own sustainable strategy called People & Planet Positive. Outlining a roadmap for the entire Ikea ecosystem, and encouraging customers to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

Ikea sustainability

Brands have reached a tipping point where they need to react to consumer concerns or risk being left behind. Understand how social media data can inform your strategy by providing insights on what consumers care about.