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Elle Nadal
Elle Nadal 18 August 2021

Join the Marketing Movement: Plastic-Free July

Curb your plastic use, and resonate with consumers. Brands showed their solidarity with the sustainability cause, Plastic-Free July (no plastic required) by identifying unique opportunities to share impact-driven initiatives and their green goals.

In continuation of the themes of action and accountability, environmental awareness is another critical topic to consumers. An increasing number of companies are releasing sustainability reports as consumers want more transparency into supply chains. 

Sustainability is so important, in fact, that consumers no longer view the sustainable credentials of a brand as an optional extra.

According to research from First Insight, a large majority (62%) of Gen Z consumers prefer shopping with “sustainable brands”. Combine this with the sustainability shopping preference of 54% of Gen X, 44% of the Silent Generation and 39% of Boomers, and we have a mandate to tint your marketing “green”. As consumer passions for impact and mission continue to scale, brands need to integrate environmental ethics into their business to stay relevant.

The Carbon-Conscious Consumer

Customers have shown loyalty to brands they believe align with their values, like sustainability. This conscious consumer is not just passionate about reducing carbon footprint on environmental holidays. Instead, they are actively advocating for carbon neutrality and accurate emissions reporting around the year.

Brands can show their solidarity with the sustainability cause, without getting lost in a crowd of other brands with green intentions, by identifying unique opportunities to share impact-driven initiatives, Plastic Free July.

Whether a brand is environmentalist by design, or in the infant stages of sustainable commitment, Plastic Free July is a great time to share their green goals. It’s a great time to ride the hydro-powered, zero-emissions “Green Consumerism” train all the way to your customers’ inboxes, and deliver an email campaign that’s made to fit the planet. 

The role a brand's mission plays when customers consider buying is discussed in The Authenticity Age.

The Authenticity Age

With social justice movements gaining traction, consumers are demanding more accountability and actions from brands. They are smart, discerning and a quick web search and TikTok away from flagging messaging that is inauthentic or misleading. In the last year, many companies have been called out for performative activism.

It takes more than a green message to meet customer expectations, it takes authenticity.

To avoid any embarrassment, marketers should ensure their external messaging is reflective of your internal processes and longer-term commitments. Even the more mundane operational sustainability initiatives a business does in the backdrop is worth noting; these seemingly minor policies are still considered a force of good for a sustainable future. 

Detail-Oriented

Like any opportunity - Plastic Free July is what marketers make of it. It can be a great opportunity to connect with a passionate and progressive consumer base, but only if marketers are willing to do some leg work and dive into the details. 

Straight out of the gate, our advice would be to avoid generic statements and broad swaths of sustainable jargon. Instead, marketers should focus on design, and share what is unique about their company’s sustainable initiatives.

As consumers’ preferences move to natural products, so does the marketing messaging and design around them. Even in the footwear industry, more companies have emerged that focus on using natural or recycled materials. This shift has integrated what people associate as organic, resulting in plant accents appearing more often in messaging.

Last year, National Geographic launched a campaign to encourage families to go on a ‘neighbourhood safari’, giving kids the opportunity to learn more about the diversity of animal and plant life in their local area.

At a time when customers were struggling with the isolation of the pandemic, National Geographic provided a much needed boost for families - not to mention encouraging parents to perhaps investigate other ways Nat Geo could help children stay informed and enthused during lockdown. 

Cariuma, a Brazilian sustainable shoe brand, focuses on conscious community and eco-friendly organisations in their email marketing. The rainforest image in their email, coupled with a clean white background emphasises this company’s dedication to sustainability and a clean future. The crisp white and bright green colours highlight the carbon-neutral shipping option shown at the bottom of the email without taking away from the message. 

Don’t go at it Alone

If there is no immediate connection between a brand and Plastic Free July, joining forces with another company or an environmental group can be a great alternative. 

Take the alliance with Adidas and Allbirds, who collaborated to launch a new product (a performance shoe with a low carbon footprint). This campaign, powered by the joint force of an iconic brand and a sustainable shoe company, lands well for consumers that like to celebrate sustainability in style.

Their proof-of-concept email teases interest in this low-carbon creation. Customers have shown loyalty to brands they believe align with their values, like sustainability. The blooming flowers featured in rocky steps symbolise the new growth of this concept.

There are some great options for partnership with impact-focused groups as well. Organisations like Fashion Revolution, One Tree Planted, and Earth Guardians will gut-check marketing initiatives, and connect brands with their already passionate audience.

A great example of these principles in action can be found with Zoopla, a leading UK online property marketplace. The organisation recently teamed up with Clean Britain, City to Sea and Surfers Against Sewage to launch the Zoopla Plastic Pledge.

Customers are given a clear idea of Zoopla’s values, it aims to “become the UK’s first plastic-free office”, and some really impressive stats on the impact of the pledge: 42,000 fewer plastic water bottles used year-on-year since March 2018 and 50 new bins made from recycled plastic at its London HQ.

In the grocery delivery industry, Ireland based on-demand grocery delivery company Buymie infuses environmental messaging in all of its initiatives and communications. As part of its interest in sustainability, Buymie’s personal shoppers are given travel guidance to avoid congestion. In Buymie’s next multimillion pound investment round it plans to invest in Tesla electric vehicles and e-cargo-bikes to minimise the carbon footprint of its deliveries!

Keeping your Marketing Mission Driven

Sustainable marketing is merely one component part of a wider strategic trend of brands being increasingly mission driven in their engagement with consumers. Research conducted by Iterable found brands in 2020 spoke out on a whole host of social issues, from climate change to racial inequality, public health to gender inequality.

Indeed, 79% of UK & US marketers said they would continue campaigns with messaging on one or more social issues in 2021.

The foundation of the strategies marketers can employ for Plastic Free July marketing are applicable to messaging around most social issues. By being consistently authentic and ensuring messaging is not just empty words, brands can connect with their consumers in a deep and meaningful way that will encourage loyalty long into the future.

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