Sustainable consumption, a challenge for marketers

Nicolas Lambert had just been named Marketer of the Year as Marketing Director at Alken Maes when we met fifteen years ago. After six years as CEO of Fairtrade Belgium, he is now an independent consultant. The sustainability think tank captain sets the tone when he points this out “The ability to adapt to what is happening in society is one of the basics of marketing”

In terms of sustainability, the lines are moving as the document focuses on a study between 2019 and (consumers who consider environmental and sustainability aspects when shopping) increased from 20.6% to 34% before falling to 20.2% in 2022 due to the purchasing power crisis. Thinking about, designing and addressing sustainable products for this segment of the population is not that complicated. Convincing the remaining 80%, including those resistant to any change, is a real challenge! And that’s where marketing can help. So many challenges and potential for these social scientists who are marketers. Because to adopt a behavior, believe me, you won’t find a better one than them (or rather, “us” as I belong to this corporation)!

product or behavior

One of the paper’s authors highlights two strategies available to marketers. On the one hand, “product” sustainability, where the brand improves the environmental and social performance of the product. For example, by going through a Fairtrade certified supplier or offering recyclable packaging. Offering short circuit products is also part of this approach. On the other hand, marketers can encourage consumers to adopt a sustainable behavior associated with the product: for example, offering a discount if they refuse plastic cutlery in fast food restaurants. We will also mention this bank, which offers a more favorable rate during continuous construction. Another original idea from the marketer’s mind: this home appliance retailer’s initiative invites customers to sign up for a cost-effective maintenance contract to extend the life of their appliances. The antithesis of planned obsolescence!

Marketers can also be involved in changing perceptions so that sustainable consumption is accepted as just… normal. The author of one of the articles gives an example of our idea of ​​a beautiful vegetable: carrots should be very thin, and the surface of potatoes should be very smooth. What led to this conclusion? A campaign led by a major retailer (and born out of a marketer’s mind) to reframe that perception has reclaimed its dignity. “ugly fruits and vegetables” so as not to waste. Still on the subject of perceptions, let’s be honest: if driving a hybrid or electric car was considered eco-boho… boring (boring), now it is considered cool and this ride is the most popular geek !

Find the correct argument

Promoting sustainable purchasing behavior ultimately often involves a particularly non-environmental argument. Nicolas Lambert, author of a book on the subject to be published by Editions Racine in March, reports a discussion with Stib’s marketing director, who argued that the main reason users are abandoning their cars for public transport is profit, not ecology. from comfort. Another example is the tax argument for the adoption of hybrid and electric cars during these Auto Show times when “all electric” is in order.

More strategically, Nathalie Erdmanis, one of the authors of the “green book”, argues that brands should review their production and sales processes by applying the 3 “Re” rules: Reduce, reuse, recycle. I would like to add that the financiers behind these brands will obviously have to find Re-ntable (almost) and sustainable business models!

When advertisers get involved

The creators and strategists of the agencies involved in the collective work set the ambition to create conscious brands that combine sustainability and well-being, and bet on making the transition not only bearable, but also desirable! Those who find the right words and images to appeal to our emotions do their best to convey that continuity in communication is also “more” and not necessarily “less.” “Buy less” is “more freedom”; “possessing less” means “having more being and prosperity”. Difficulty… But not so much, trust them!

As Nathalie Erdmanis points out, “Marketers are actors in an economic model based on progress, growth, profit and profitability…many notions challenged by sustainability imperatives.” The corporation I belong to is aware of this and wants to participate in a change that no longer separates planet and person because, to quote David Brower, “There is no business on a dead planet.”

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