• Akhila Balasubramaniam

How to competitively market sustainability?

Updated: Apr 21

Photo by Margot RICHARD on Unsplash

When you see a product that says "eco-friendly", "fair-trade", "cruelty-free", do you choose it over a traditional product?

Let's say you don't, does it mean that you don't care for these? That's the oversimplification that we need to avoid!

I recently attended a Women in Sustainability conference on how to sell sustainability. The speakers Sophia and Natalia shared some ideas which answered these questions so clearly. Such simple ideas, that once I heard, it seemed like common sense.

I consider myself an environmentally conscious person (far from perfect). I try to make the right choice for nature and animals as much as it seems reasonable to me. "Reasonable" being the keyword.

The problem occurs when some of the strategies in sustainability marketing puts eco-conscious people in a "reasonability dilemma".

What is this reasonability dilemma?

Let's say I go to buy shampoo and I see two bottles with different messages:

  1. Recyclable, cruelty-free, vegan. You made the right choice for the planet! (It also has a recognised eco-label)

  2. Want to spare those extra moments taming your hair in the morning? Choose this and get frizz-free smooth hair!

This is the reasonability dilemma - "Do I choose something that benefits me or do I make the right choice for the environment? Is making the eco-friendly compromise reasonable to me?"

No one wants to buy a substandard product just to be an eco champion. If one option lets you spend lesser time combing in the morning to catch some extra sleep, you're going to take it.

Sustainability marketing has to take elements from traditional marketing to keep the messaging customer-centric. You’re not selling it to the planet or the animals, so stop using that as the primary selling point. Tell the buyers how they profit from the product. Once you've offered the value, let the eco-friendly and sustainable branding be the icing on the cake and the differentiating factor.

Once they're sold on the benefits, empower them by underscoring how they're contributing to a healthy and sustainable environment. Now is the time to go all-in on how sustainable it is and make the buyers feel like champions, but let that not hog the focus.

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