What Is Sustainable Marketing And Why It Matters In Business

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products. 

Understanding sustainable marketing

Sustainable marketing is any marketing campaign that meets the present needs of consumers with the goal of serving the needs of future generations. 

It can be seen in specific products, causes, or business unique selling propositions. Most commonly, it is described in an environmental context. For example, car dealerships and mechanics who promote the safe disposal of engine oil and other harmful liquids are practicing sustainable marketing.

In the case of LEGO, sustainable marketing is part of their brand and mission statement. The company has a goal to manufacture all of its bricks sustainably by the year 2030 while maintaining the high quality that generations have become accustomed to. Fast-food giant McDonald’s responded to criticism that their product range contributed to global obesity by creating a more sustainable range of foods.

While LEGO and McDonald’s back their sustainable marketing initiative with action, there have been many examples of companies promoting themselves as sustainable without changing any of their practices. As with any marketing campaign, sustainability must align with brand identity and also solve problems that the consumer and indeed the planet is experiencing.

Five principles of sustainable marketing

Sustainable marketing should be guided by five main principles, outlined below.

Consumer-oriented marketing

Consumer-oriented marketing argues that a business should create marketing campaigns from the consumer’s point of view. Businesses must satisfy the needs of current and future generations simultaneously by embodying a passion for the hopes and aspirations of their target audience.

Customer-value marketing

Here, sustainable marketing means that a business resists the urge to increase short-term earnings and instead add long term value to their products – whether that be through quality, features, or convenience. Value is seen as a two-way street, where the business provides value for the consumer which is repaid by the consumer in the form of product revenue and loyalty.

Innovate marketing

Innovative marketing is particularly important for sustainability, but it also delivers on consumer preferences for product and marketing development. Samsung is a classic example of innovative marketing at work. Once the cheaper alternative to Sony products, Samsung invested heavily in research, development, and design in the late 1990s to now be market leaders in consumer electronics.

Sense-of-mission marketing

Sense-of-mission marketing means a business mission should be defined in broader societal terms as opposed to narrower product or person terms. Social missions not only give employees a sense of purpose, but they also allow a brand to adapt and stay relevant to current societal trends. 

Dog food manufacturer PEDIGREE makes high-quality dog food, but the PEDIGREE brand is very much about the dogs themselves. With the tagline “Dogs rule”, everything that the company does is driven by a love of dogs. This includes internal operations and external marketing campaigns. The company encourages employees to bring their dogs to work and is actively engaged in raising money for animal shelters.

Societal marketing

In societal marketing, the business makes marketing decisions by considering the wants and needs of society as a whole – particularly over the long-term. Ideally, societal marketing should make use of so-called desirable products, which offer high immediate satisfaction and long-term benefits to the consumer. An example of a desirable product with benefits to society can be seen with General Electric. Its range of durable, bright fluorescent lights with high energy-saving potential have been a global success.

Key takeaways

  • Sustainable marketing involves the promotion of a business with socially and environmentally responsible products, practices, and brand identity.
  • Sustainable marketing requires that social and environmental initiatives be backed up with action.
  • Sustainable marketing offers five guiding principles that explain how a business might be competitive long term while also providing benefits to society and the environment.

Connected Marketing Concepts

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Digital Marketing

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

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