People in the park, by Justin Goring

Sustainability as Marketing Opportunity

In Marketing by Justin

Just thinking about how a business can better promote their sustainability practice, and at the same time utilise the opportunity to gain further traction in its marketplace.

I read a blog post about this subject a few days ago which listed the below [presupposed] market risks of using ’Sustainability’ as a purchase differentiator:

  • Unknown consumer appeal;
  • Lack of understanding from certain market groups;
  • Concerns over differing views from consumers;
  • Questions about how it affects buying behaviour.

In my view, B2C companies such as Ford, Coca Cola, Levis, have shown that the above ‘risks’ are unfounded and have implemented sustainable values successfully (specifically embedded as a core component) within marketing campaigns.
Utilising the sustainable aspects of the product, and/or the cultural shift toward organisations playing a noticeable role in socio-cultural responsibility for ‘well-being’, the consumer market brands have diverted attention away from ‘consumption’ into ‘lifestyle responsibility’.
This is smart marketing: It supplies a needed shift, away from ‘product placement’ toward ‘Thought Leadership content’; and shifts the responsibility for ‘well-being’ and consuming ‘sustainably’ back to the customer.

Once again, companies that predominantly exist within a B2B and B2G marketplace are lagging behind the trailblazing Consumer brands, in how they do marketing.
I’ve long felt that an organisation that considers itself within a Business to Business marketplace only, must evaluate what B2B really is, who they deal with and how one business product, service or solution is actually purchased, in order to consider the best possible triggers that will influence their target audience to achieve a goal.

I think it is safe to say that ‘transaction’, when detailed into a step process, breaks down to: one or more people interacting with another group of people (albeit as representatives of business).
People IMHO can be emotionally affected, in the same way when faced with any buying choice, whether it’s a kettle or enterprise software (notwithstanding risk, and urgency which obviously play a part).
People look for deep emotional connections and relationships with their ‘things’, have aspirations, associate moral values, and don’t want to be ‘the only one’.
This is what I would consider to be P2P or Person to Person marketing.

Content marketing begins to address this (and other issues) by supplying a richer source of information – a story of not just ‘what’, but also ‘why’ and ‘how’ – that provides people with a deeper contextual understanding of the products and services they are interested in.
This deeper context further supports the post-modernist resolve, that the U.S.P. (unique selling point) of a business no longer simply the thing it sells, but must now be the [exposed and transparent] ‘reasons’ that drives a business to sell.
Match those business ‘reasons’ for selling, to people’s lifestyle, moral and emotive triggers, and a stronger bond can be formed between business and customer / Client [person].

The ‘Sustainable’ aspects of a product, service, solution and/or business as a whole therefore, is a perfect emotive, moral lifestyle consideration to be exposed and used to enhance the buying cycle in any B2 situation.
Of course, there are those who will always state that “Price comes first” in the filtering of product selection, and I would agree. But I would caveat the ‘price principal’ with the thought that it is only a research filter, a way of refining vast option down to affordable comparisons.
It’s my experience that a person would pay more that they initially wanted – even wait and save up, or go out on a limb to convince the board – for a product that supports the lifestyle choice or aspiration they (or their company) wants to promote.