As marketers, we are learning more and more how promoting environmental practices and eco-friendly packaging impact consumer buying behavior. Whether it’s their concern about synthetic materials, wasteful packaging, or carbon pollution, consumers are increasingly eyeing products that are manufactured and packaged sustainably.
But does this concern translate into changes in shopping behavior? A recent survey decided to find out. The answer is yes, but not necessarily in ways that you might expect. Here are a few key takeaways from the “U.S. Retail Sustainability Perceptions Benchmark” survey (eMarketer/ Insider Intelligence, 2022) that we think will be helpful to employ in your marketing.
PROMOTE the message you most want remembered. Consumers care about sustainability, but they are more influenced by perception than details. The study found the brands that consistently promote themselves as eco-friendly are perceived as eco-friendly (and win customers’ support), whether they are the most eco-friendly brands or not. Branding matters.
FOCUS on the aggregate impact. While there is desire to purchase from sustainable brands, buyers are often overwhelmed by the size of the problem. When they look at an individual package, wrapper, or product, they aren’t convinced that switching to an eco-friendly version is worth it, especially if they must pay a premium for it. For example, one might think, “One billion toothbrushes are sold every year. Why should I pay $15 for a bamboo toothbrush when it won’t make a difference anyway?” The answer is that there are 330 million people in the United States. If even one in 10 people converts to a bamboo toothbrush and replaces that toothbrush twice per year, that’s 66 million toothbrushes kept out of the landfill annually. When seen as part of a larger effort, one person can make a difference, and it’s up to brands to help their customers think that way.
PROVIDE verifiable claims to garner continued trust. One of the concerns in the sustainable marketplace is “greenwashing,” a term used to describe the tactic of making something sound like it’s more environmentally friendly than it is. With so many brands on the eco-friendly bandwagon, consumers know they are being greenwashed at least some of the time, but they don’t always know when that is happening or what to do about it. Take the time to back up your claims with numbers and details, even consider offering third-party verification. Why? So that brand you have been promoting can be seen as reliable and trustworthy.
So, ultimately, consumers care about sustainability, but they need help cutting through the weeds. Utilizing these key takeaways will help you tailor your messaging to the areas that greatest influence their perception, and purchasing, of your products.
About the Author
Kristin Ellenberger joined the Vizi marketing team in 2012 with a background in both direct and promotional marketing. After graduating from Penn State, Kristin spent several years with a global marketing agency specializing in acquisition and retention direct mail programs for clients such as JP Morgan Chase, Nationwide Insurance and The United Way. Kristin furthered her expertise by joining a boutique marketing agency specializing in B2C promotions, point of sale materials, and product launches for national consumer packaged goods clients. Kristin has spent the last decade focused on supporting all aspects of Vizi’s internal and external branding, print and digital marketing, and community outreach.