I state sustainability marketing as a “plan that has sustainability in both the practice and the product”.
It’s more than just a buzz word to me. I really like thwink.org and their definition of sustainability broken down into different areas:
- Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely.
- For more practical detail the behaviour you wish to continue indefinitely must be defined. For example:
- Environmental sustainability is the ability to maintain rates of renewable resource harvest, pollution creation, and non-renewable resource depletion that can be continued indefinitely.
- Economic sustainability is the ability to support a defined level of economic production indefinitely.
- Social sustainability is the ability of a social system, such as a country, to function at a defined level of social well being indefinite.
Bringing this into my world I wanted to figure out how that applied to marketing. So let’s explore this.
In the world of digital marketing, consumers are more exposed than ever. Cookies are on every computer stacked high and we are being followed around the internet. This has seen a rise in ad blockers, VPN and now with the blockchain technology seeping into every crack of disruption, anonymity online is almost forcing marketers to think about the sustainability of their marketing channels.
Can they continue this ‘defined behaviour indefinitely’?
It’s about finding a balance now between leading the consumer through a journey to a point of sale in an efficient way but also in a way that doesn’t tarnish the relationship between them and the brand.
Ethics in marketing play a huge role in sustainability marketing. Building a campaign must consider every touch point and how it affects the consumer, the environment and the community (especially the community built around the brand).
I don’t think the classic image of an old school used car salesman would’ve been considering sustainability for a moment.
We are also seeing the market now begin to favour these marketing practices and actually draw a higher conversion rate. It’s about ‘speed’ and pushing off the desperation for the need of an immediate ROI. It’s about focusing on the long-term ROI of a consumer that loves the brand and their products vs the short-term ROI of a quick sale.
55% of global consumers willing to pay extra for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact up 10% from 2011 – Nielsen 2014 Doing Well by Doing Good
1/3 rd of consumers (33%) are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. – Unilever International Study 2016
Here are some marketing practices that are not so good:
These are marketing practices that I consider sustainable and that I love for both the quality of connection and the long-term ROI driver.
If we go back and look at my original definition “plan that has sustainability in both the practice and the product” we have to now consider the product.
It’s up to the brands now to build sustainability into their core values. For those values to reach the product development team and for them to make moves to ensure that their products are sustainable.
We are in a world where simply moving towards carbon neutral is not good enough. It does not address the 3 main areas of sustainability and we are passed that. The planet cannot withstand the current consumption rate. We need to build businesses that not only take less but GIVE BACK!
That is the challenge we really face.
Product sustainability needs to also be considered in terms of its viability. Can this product last forever? Can we always offer support? What do we do when its life cycle comes to an end? If you just put short-term cash flow at the heart of your product development then you aren’t planning for long-term success.
I can’t recall ever writing ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ so often in a piece but I think that’s the real difference here between a sustainable and non-sustainable marketing plan. One looks at the long-term impact and one doesn’t.
When writing your plans where are you looking?
Mark is CEO of Conscious Creatives. A passionate believer in doing the right thing is the key to being successful. He is also a photographer, filmmaker, writer and speaker.
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