Millennials are driving the sustainable brand revolution. If you want the most financially powerful generation to love your brand, it’s time to get on board – and the best way to do that is by going green.
But why do they care so much? What’s different about young people today – as it looks like Generation Z, today’s teenagers, will be just as eco-conscious – that makes them care more about your company’s supply line than their own wallet? The simple truth is that, as the first generation to really embrace the internet, they eagerly consume information about the world around them – and how their parents’ generation has affected the planet. Add to this that they’re more brand promiscuous than any previous generation due to their lack of trust in big companies, and you start to see a picture of the difficulties marketers and brand builders face today.
This isn’t just a US phenomenon, either. In fact, Nielsen found that 66% of global respondents are willing to pay more for products and services that come “from companies that are committed to a positive social and environmental impact,” a figure that rose 11% from the previous year.
But how can you use green initiatives to boost your brand’s appeal with Millennials, as well as with the generations that follow them?
Pick A Green Initiative You Actually Care About
A major side effect of spending so much time online, and consuming so much branded or brand-influenced content is that Millennials and Generation Z can smell inauthenticity a mile away. If you pick an initiative just for marketing purposes, and then only put in the bare minimum, you may actually do more harm than good.
It’s less important that your chosen initiative be grand, and more important that it be something you’ll actually dedicate your brand to. Whether that means changing your manufacturing and production to be more sustainable, lowering your overall energy consumption, or putting aside a portion of your profits to donate to a great cause, make sure it’s something you can stick with and that your executive team is actually passionate about.
Be Transparent About Your Wins (And Losses)
Nobody expects everything to go perfectly, least of all Millennials – this generation, which has been dragged through a slew of trauma as early adults, from the Recession to the recent election, understands that better than most. However, what they also understand is that if there’s no information available, it’s likely a bad sign.
To combat the suspicion of Millennials, make sure to regularly publish data about how your initiative is progressing – including when things go wrong. While it can be tough to say that your company made a mistake or something didn’t go as planned, suddenly going silent will do far more damage than owning up to a hurdle and explaining how you’re going to correct the problem.
A great example of this is when Patagonia, the outdoor supply chain that built its brand around sustainability, environmental friendliness and good, wholesome fun, found that it had slaves in its supply chain. Instead of covering it up, the brand publicized an entire article about the problem – including exactly how it was going to solve the problem. This ended up boosting the brand’s recognition and trust sky high, even though the original move was to admit failure.
Create Valuable Content Around What You’re Doing
Now that your brand is making a difference to the world and its community, it’s time to tell your audience about what a great job you’re doing! The best way to do this is by pushing out valuable content through your blog and social media.
Customize your content approach to the work that you’re doing at the moment of each content campaign: if you’re working with something highly photogenic, such as installing solar panels or building wind farms, push lots of high quality photographs out. If you’re meeting with community leaders and sponsoring programs, write articles about the conversations and progress you’re making. If you’re teaching the community how to improve their lives, a YouTube guide may be your best bet.
No matter how you approach it, there’s no way of getting around it: in order for your brand to thrive this year, and for the foreseeable future, you must be environmentally and socially responsible. However, just because you’re investing in initiatives that may have little connection to your products doesn’t mean that you can’t improve your profit margins at the same time. Make sure to be transparent about your progress, but don’t hold back from shouting your successes from the proverbial roof tops!