Words like sustainability, eco-friendly, green-certified, and eco-conscious are beginning to have more weight in the minds of consumers. As the worldwide awareness of climate change and resource sustainability continues to expand, so do the opportunities to integrate eco-friendly practices into business methods. As we noted in our article that defined eco branding, the “going green” effort is no longer a trend but a worldwide need for survival and longevity.
In its beginning phases, eco branding was seen by consumers as a way of embellishing branding and making products sound more attractive than they truly were. This is partially due to the fact that only a few brands were committed to authentic environmental action. The unfortunate truth is that brands recognized the consumer’s keen attention to sustainable brands and used that to appear like they were eco-friendly through marketing and advertising instead of having true environmental impact – marketers call this Corporate Greenwashing. Big companies learned that sustainability sells and wanted to gain from those emerging markets. Instead of creating positive environmental impact, they simply made false eco claims and used the messaging to sell false hopes of eco advancements. This tainted the power of being a true eco brand as consumers were confused about who to trust.
However, consumer habits are changing and more people are becoming informed on how to know which brands are honest about their eco-efforts. Consumers are more aware of the impact of their buying decisions and companies are beginning to rise to the social responsibility they have to conduct sustainable business practices. According to a Nielsen Report, 65-70% percent of consumers under the age of 35 prefer brands based on ethical practices and transparency. The younger generations in Millennials and Gen Z are more aware, informed, and decisive when it comes to supporting certain businesses, products, movements, and other causes that align with their views. Nielsen reports that “about 75% of Millennials are altering their buying habits with the environment in mind, compared to 34 percent of Baby Boomers. The new trends seem to show a greater willingness to pay more for products with ingredients that are sustainable, environmentally friendly, organic or natural, or socially responsible products.
As a business owner reading this article, there is an opportunity to position your company into a sustainable and profitable future. The goal is to create a planet that is sustainable and renewable to ensure worldwide growth. Whether your business is looking to integrate eco practices or if your business was built on eco-efforts, this article will help you target eco consumers in three ways. We will look deeper into “sustainable shoppers” and what it takes to target this growing market niche.
How to target eco consumers in a nutshell:
- Understand the audience and eco effort you want to support
- Be in tune with the product’s sourcing
- Honesty and Transparency is key with any eco
Tip 1: Understand the audience and eco effort you want to support
To connect with eco consumers, consider the audience you’re looking to reach and understand the trends, movements, causes, and efforts that support and align with their values. Before coming up with marketing strategies, identify where there’s audience engagement. This will allow you to know what platforms you need to be actively engaging with. As we know, powerful marketing is a result of characterizing our target audience and knowing how to create media that connects on a personal level. With eco consumers, there are several ways of categorizing the different eco niches. One way to look at those eco groups is how J. Ottman Consulting categorized them into three general categories: Planet Passionates, Health Fanatics, and Animal Lovers.
This group is determined to protect and conserve the environment. They support movements involved with climate change, waste reduction, and resource sustainability. This group is careful with the brands they purchase as they look for products that have eco-friendly packaging and ethical production practices. Planet passionates avoid purchasing single-use plastic products and consistently look for ways to clean and protect the environment. This group ultimately looks to have a small footprint on the planet and live a minimalist lifestyle.
The health fanatic group is concerned with the potential threats from poor environmental conditions and harmful production methods. This group believes in the natural way of doing things to avoid cancerous production methods, food pesticides, and other health consequences. To ensure the health of their families, health fanatic consumers look for organic foods, natural-made products, and do research to understand the company’s practices. These consumers are well-informed about manufacturing and environmentally friendly products. This group is also more likely to go out of their way to purchase products that protect their health.
The animal lover group is usually people who are vegetarians, vegans, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and other enthusiasts who believe in the life conservation of animals. This niche focuses on products that are “cruel-free” and do not involve animals in the process of creating a product. This audience will go out of their way to find products that protect animal life and find restaurants that do not use any type of meat or animal-based ingredients. Targeting this audience requires specific products that fit into the lifestyle. It will be key to work with organizations like PETA to be in tune with the latest trends, animal life programs/campaigns, and any other opportunities to connect with people who love animals. Targeting local markets is a good way of learning about audiences that are close to you, to do this you can find organic food markets, vegan/vegetarian food festivals, animal life protection movements, and other local events that can help you get valuable market research.
Tip 2: Be in tune with the product’s sourcing
In a 5-star restaurant, a chef must use the freshest ingredients and assure that the taste reflects the cost, experience, and value that they’re known for. As an eco-friendly company, it is just as important to know the materials and process that it takes to create your business so that you can assure that consumers are purchasing an authentic eco product.
Whether you are creating your own product or distributing a wholesale product, knowing how to source properly is how you create a transparent supply chain. As an e-commerce business owner, it’s not always easy to know the sourcing and manufacturing process of the products sold. Knowing how your product is sourced and what consumers are looking for is the key to how to target eco consumers. Take some time to set up meetings with your suppliers, manufacturer, and any other entity that touches your product. You’ll want to ask questions about materials, process steps, and any other factors that can affect the legitimacy of your business. Trust us, eco consumers know how to research! Just because a product can meet certain government regulations doesn’t mean it passes the eco consumer test. If your product isn’t sourced in a method that speaks directly to your audience, then you’ll be seeing dust and products on your inventory shelves.
Tip 3: Honesty and Transparency is key with any eco
We mentioned this in tip 2 but want to reiterate: eco consumers DO RESEARCH. I repeat, do not even attempt to fool eco consumers with fake messaging that says you’re the most eco brand or fake eco certifications on your packaging.
Strategies like this do not make your product eco-friendly nor do they make you attractive to eco consumers. Sustainable shoppers know what to look for in the products that align with their values. Seeing cheap marketing tactics is a quick way to lose respect in the eco-space and perhaps get your company and product shunned. Companies in the past have gotten away with this and as we mentioned before, it’s the reason why the definition of eco-friendly has been cloudy. However, we live in an age where consumers can spread information quickly on social media and through niche audiences are able to cause massive boycotting waves. Don’t put your company on the ax list just because you were trying to deceive the market.
Eco shoppers are aware that there are real organizations with vigorous screenings and audits to validate a business, product, and/or service. These organizations then allow brands to showcase the certification on the packaging, product, and across their brand. This is how you get to embellish your branding with authentic and honest eco certifications. For instance, if you are “Green Seal Certified” that represents Green Seal recognition of a company’s compliance with a rigorous set of criteria designed to achieve leadership levels in sustainability, and an ongoing commitment to health and the environment. To learn more about certifications, check out this article by Elemental Green to learn about 20+ eco certifications out there.
Eco-products are not only here to stay but are going to become a way of life. The damage we’ve caused to our planet is already forcing us to revisit the way we do things to become more sustainable. This shift in the world will cause industries to adapt or get left behind. Knowing how to be a sustainable brand is not only your social responsibility but also a necessary step to keep this world progressing and moving forward.