Your sustainability message needs more thought than you may think.

When drinks brands talk about their sustainability credentials they often focus on just one or two elements of what they do – such as the use of recycled material compared to their previous iteration of the same product for example. This may be a great start, but it leaves so many stones unturned.

Changing to recyclables in this context is (or should be) just a step of many towards finding a better solution to packaging and containing their product; it might be the ideal result, but not necessarily so. The point being to achieve a better sustainable solution, you should always be looking to improve what you have, as what is ‘new’ and a step forward today, is a baseline standard tomorrow.

In marketing, this often creates a problem. Brands will champion their use of something ‘new’, or the fact they’re part of a carbon offsetting scheme, however under greater scrutiny these claims appear shallow if it’s only based on the improvement of previously poor business practices, or other parts of the business have not been considered. Quite simply, it’s ‘greenwash’. Consumers deserve more than this and the environment needs better than this.

However real change isn’t always as simple as opting for a recycled version of the same product – such as glass bottles for your product. Yes, it’s a good change – but is there a more radical solution to this problem which will be less impactful on the environment? Potentially there is – but this adds other challenges.

To make meaningful change both consumers and producers may need to adapt to something new. Producers (and manufacturers) to create something people want (at a price they will pay) and consumers to create demand and actually buy it. That’s the basics of economics. If both sides don’t work, it potentially means there’s some great intention, but little action and little change.

So what barriers should we be considering?

Price and availability are obviously key barriers to sale, however don’t underestimate what may be seen as the softer side of the process; perception, expectation, brand experience. A better product doesn’t always win; history is littered with many products which lost out to inferior competitors due to consumer uptake (or not). VHS and Betamax comes to mind.

Several factors, including marketing budgets, may have played a part here but the point is that at the end of the day it was the consumer who made one company and broke another in this example. As businesses we can have the best product but if it gets overlooked in favour of another product when it comes to putting it in the basket, then it’s lost that fight.

Making significant change is just the same. Essentially, we’re talking about creating an alternative solution – therefore adding to the consumer’s decision-making process at point of purchase;

Question 1      Is it better/different to my usual? (what’s inside the container)

Question 2      How does the price compare?

Question 3      Does it appeal to me? (brand, visual appearance)

Question 4      Are there any negatives? (perception of change)

Question 5      Does it align with my values (cheap / quality / environment / natural / exclusive etc)

Question 6      Will I be disappointed?

Action              Place in basket or move on

Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes

To really make a change that sticks, you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What is important to them? What is the impact of the changes you’re making – and will it make sense to someone who isn’t within your organisation or industry? Why should they care? And if they don’t care, will your changes alienate them?

Be genuine

Make a change for a reason. Yes, efficiencies and finances are a good reason, but think of how the consumer perceives change – it’s often met with suspicion and negativity;

If it’s a smaller package – am I getting the same product? Is there less? Does it taste / perform the same? Are the materials inside cheaper?

If it’s environmental; Are you doing this just to jump on the green bandwagon? What aren’t you telling us about your processes? Does this really make a difference?

If it’s a different material – is the product inside affected? Will it taste the same? Is this just about cost saving so you make more profit?

So how are you genuine in this? By demonstrating it through all of your brand – not just a hastily added message to an advert.

Involve marketing

Making change – be it environmental, products, processes, solutions and everything else is a challenge. It’s also a cultural challenge. It’s very much a brand challenge. It can be a logistics challenge. Also a procurement challenge. It’s also a huge opportunity BUT … it needs to be communicated in the right way.

Don’t forget, communication is written, it’s heard, it’s seen. Get. Marketing. Involved.

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