Sustainable consumption, a challenge for marketers

Nicolas Lambert, at the time of our meeting fifteen years ago, had recently been named Marketer of the Year as Director of Marketing at Alken Maes. He is now an independent consultant after spending six years as CEO of Fairtrade Belgium. And the leader of the Center for Sustainability Research sets the tone when he highlights this “The ability to conform to what is happening in society is one of the foundations of marketing.”

In terms of sustainability, the lines are moving because the document highlights a study showing that between 2019 and 2021, the number ofenvironmentally active (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 very complicated. Convincing the remaining 80%, including those who resist any change, is a real challenge! And this is exactly where marketing can help. What a challenge and potential for marketed social science professionals. Because to build a behavior, believe me, you will not find better than them (or rather, “from us”, because I belong to this company)!

product or behaviour

One of the authors of the document highlights the two strategies available to marketers. On the other hand, the sustainability of the “product” through which the brand improves the environmental and social performance of the product. For example, by going to a Fairtrade certified supplier or by offering recyclable packaging. The introduction of short circuit products is also part of this approach. On the other hand, marketers can encourage consumers to adopt sustainable behavior associated with the product: for example, offering a discount if plastic cutlery is rejected in fast food restaurants. We will also mention this bank that offers a more favorable rate in the case of sustainable construction. Autre idee originale née dans la tête d’un marketeur: l’initiative of this détaillant en produits electroménagers qui invite the client à souscrire à un contrat d’entretien à prix coûtant pour alle la durée de vie des appareils qu’il vient de lui Buys. The antithesis of planned obsolescence!

Marketers can also get involved in changing perceptions so that sustainable consumption is seen as…normal. The author of one of the articles cites our perception of a beautiful vegetable as an example: what led to this conviction that the carrot should be very thin and the surface of the potato very smooth? In order to revise this perception, a campaign led by a major retailer (and born in the mind of a marketer) restored their dignity to ‘Ugly fruits and vegetables’ In order to avoid wastage. We’re still talking about perceptions, let’s be honest: If driving a hybrid or electric car is seen as environmentally friendly… boring (Boring), is now considered cool and this ride is very popular geek !

Find the right argument

Promoting sustainable buying behavior often ultimately involves an argument that it will not be particularly environmental. Nicolas Lambert, author of a book due to be published next March on the subject by Éditions Racine, talks about a discussion with Stib’s marketing director who argued that the main reason users left their car for public transport was not the environment but convenience gains. And in these times of auto show where “all electric cars” are in order, the tax argument for adopting hybrid and electric cars is another example.

More strategically, Natalie Erdmanis, one of the authors of the “Green Book”, says that brands should review their production and sales process by applying the 3 “Re” rule: Reduce the reuse of recycled materials. I should add that it is clear that the financiers behind these brands will have to find business models that are adaptable (dare we say that) and sustainable!

when advertisers get involved

The designers and strategists of the agencies involved in teamwork set the ambition to create conscious brands that combine sustainability and luxury and are betting on making transition not just bearable but desirable! Those who find the right words and images that appeal to our feelings do their best to express in communication that sustainability is also “more” and not necessarily “less”. “buy less” is “more freedom”; “Less possession” means “more luxury and luxury.” Challenging…but not that much, trust them!

As Natalie Erdmanis points out, “Marketers are the actors in an economic model based on progress, growth, profit, and profitability… There are many notions that question the imperatives of sustainability.” The company I belong to understands this and wants to participate in a change that no longer separates the planet from the human because, in the words of David Brewer, “There is no business on a dead planet.”

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