I will admit that as a consumer, I’m a real sucker for green alternatives. Metal straws, safety razors, shampoo bars – I’m here for it, and I’m not the only one. A recent study by Nielsen found that nearly 80% of Singaporeans are willing to pay premium prices for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable materials.
Given this consumer sentiment, why are green branded products beyond the mighty metal straw not flying off the shelves?
Here’s the deal: despite consumer intention, the green narrative is not an easy one to master, and consumers are losing faith in the authenticity of green efforts from brands. With increased consumer distrust due to ‘greenwashing’ (making an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly) and general news overload of the ‘green agenda’, it’s more difficult for green brands to be seen as authentic and connect with consumers, let alone effectively change spending habits and lifestyle choices.
But it’s not impossible to get it right.
A holistic communications strategy that highlights transparency, action, authenticity and the power of individual action is key to making consumer connections and becoming a trusted green brand. Here’s what you can do:
Thoroughly examine your brand
Are you really a green brand?
Many brands have tried to leverage the green movement over the years, implementing marketing strategies to position themselves as environmentally friendly without actually having the initiatives in place to make that claim. If your brand is well-respected by consumers, learning that you aren’t what you claim can severely damage a reputation that took years to establish. For example, Mcdonald’s replaced their plastic straws with paper straws in 2019, in an effort to be more eco-friendly – but there was a major problem. Plastic straws can be recycled; the new paper ones can’t be. And consumers weren’t lovin’ it.
It can be tempting to run eco-conscious campaigns in order to tap into the promising market of green warriors, however if you don’t have creds, your consumers will see right through you. So if you’re going to claim a product, initiative, or company is green, you need to be certain of it.
Allow your consumers to hold you accountable
Lack of information = lack of trust.
Green communications aren’t about big achievements, but about transparency. By showcasing your company’s commitments you should simultaneously register your shortcomings as well. And while this might seem counterintuitive, they will appreciate you being upfront and realistic about your commitments.
If you’re truly committed to the cause, one way to be transparent is to set concrete action steps with clear deadlines that are communicated to the consumer. This allows your audience to keep you accountable while managing their expectations. The steps you take could be anything from including sustainability goals in the Corporate Social Responsibility section of your website, to building a social media campaign around your plan.
Always keep in mind that the size of the action doesn’t really matter – what’s important is to be transparent about your efforts. Consumers who care about the environment and are seeking out green brands often are very knowledgeable on the topic and will appreciate it if they can see that you’re genuinely trying, even if it’s just baby steps.
It’s a marathon, not sprint
Many brands have made the mistake of trying to make big changes quickly, leading to their green initiatives not being fully thought through. For example, in 2017 paint brand Valspar quickly removed an additive from one of its product lines in order to be compliant with EU chemical regulations meant to protect the environment only to be quickly hit with a slew of complaints about smelly rooms. The removal of the additive had allowed bacteria to grow, resulting in what the company described as an “ammonia-like” smell.
What we learn here is that it’s important that brands take their time when it comes to reformulating, repackaging or re-imagining their products to reduce environmental impact. And that if it’s done wrong, it can do much more harm to your brand reputation than good.
Enjoy the journey
Going green shouldn’t be a marketing strategy, but an action taken because your business is passionate about reducing its environmental impact. Consumers can tell when a business is being genuine, so if you’re going to go down the green path, have fun with it, enjoy the journey, and make sure you communicate that passion to your customers.
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