In this guest post, Natalie Dean-Weymark (pictured below), co-director of Compass Creative Studio, says in the era of the cause-oriented consumer, brands need to rethink what real conversions looks like in 2019…
At the recent 1% For The Planet summit in Sydney, I was made aware that not only are 1,800 of global brands now donating one per cent of all annual sales (and that’s sales, not profit!), hundreds of individual people are actually donating one per cent of their own pay check to the same cause.
These people are not part of any specific organisation, background or demographic – just everyday citizens that recognise the need for immediate action when it comes to environmental issues.
So, as business leaders, what does it mean when the consumer – our buyer – becomes so vested in a purpose and cause that they are willing to sacrifice their own pay check to see the fulfilment of a collective good? We are required to think beyond just conversion and creativity – to further afield concepts like ethics, impact and empowerment of better buying choices for the consumer.
What’s interesting about the above scenario is that we use words like ‘consumer’ and ‘business leaders’. There is no mention of government, nor did I personally see any political representation there on the evening itself. In this essence, the consumer becomes our global citizen, and the brand the trusted custodian of change.
In a political environment of continuous flux, conspiracy and internal conflict; our governments sit at polar opposite to the ideals of the current generations. For better or worse, we are a society created via the feeds of social media platforms – so expectation of aspiration and immediacy go with the territory. In a society that values idealisation and quick-response, local government represent nothing but a lack-of-action.
This is where brands have the ability to step in and mobilise momentum. With large audiences, commercial means and the ability to re-act with agility on the preferred platforms, brands are presented with a unique opportunity to entwine themselves, quite literally, in the hearts and minds of their buying audience. In this sense, marketing and brand strategies, now not only need to consider things like price, promotion and place – but also how your brand is impacting your consumers life, in a way that extends beyond just POS and well into future years.
In this climate, brands are required more so than ever before to review their practices, their profits, their supplier chains, their impact – and find an authentic voice and method for communicating this to their audiences. Consumers are wearing their conscious – loudly and proudly – and brands that are seen not embracing this or creating a worse tomorrow than the one that younger generations are already facing, are quickly becoming outdated and irrelevant.
So how do marketers tackle the task of mapping this out and talking about it to their audience in a way that is both impactful, useful and truthful? Well first, if you aren’t across, and aiming to reduce your environmental impact as a brand – you should be. It’s 2019, in today’s market, anyone that is not addressing this on both an internal and external scale is reckless. In fact, Nielsen reports that more than two-in-three consumers in the Pacific are willing to spend more on products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable materials, and three-in-five demonstrate a willingness to pay more for products that deliver on social responsibility claims.
This means that we have to look closer at what our social responsibility is, and how we are communicating this to our audiences. Brands need to be looking at supply chains, your business carbon footprint, your take on merchandising, your office waste output – even who you pay your energy bill to, or how your preferred employee super fund is invested.
And if you’re already doing it, be prepared to talk about it – a lot. And for your audience to pick apart your good efforts in skepticism. This means that your team has to be really well informed in the space, or you need to work with someone who is. And don’t for a second think you can fake it – as this is an audience that is well-versed in greenwashing as a marketing tactic. As echoed by Shannon Bourke, environmental & social initiatives manager for Patagonia, on the evening “Embrace transparency. When you start talking about giving programs or any environmental initiatives in your marketing communication, it’s inevitable that you are going to get questions from your customers asking about how your company operates. Customers are expecting more and more that companies have these types of programs in place, but they are also are becoming more discerning in terms of brand authenticity around this. I think you just have to anticipate the questions, and be ready to respond honestly and authentically.”
Bourke then went onto explain that this concept is actually addressed in the Patagonia’s original mission statement ‘to cause no unnecessary harm’ – “the flip side of this,” she says, “actually acknowledges that we are causing harm to a degree, is at forefront of our mind and that we are doing X, Y and Z to solve it.”
Marketing and brand communications has never been heralded as a segment of the industry that can change the world, but at this exact moment of time, we have the power to encourage consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions, that will benefit a better tomorrow.
With the advent of digital, we are a cause-oriented community more so than ever before, and it is within this climate, brands are presented with the opportunity to have a meaningful relationship with their audiences like never before. It is within this new-world order that brands become the catalysts for the change that our audience want to see in the future, and are willing to vote with their wallets for.