Sustainable brands must attract an audience of persuadables

By Jake Dubbins, Managing Director of Media Bounty
Jake Dubbins, Managing Director at Media Bounty, offers his five marketing strategies for sustainable brands looking to attract a new audience

Sustainable brands are missing out on a significant commercial opportunity without even realising it.

While 14% of the UK population are very engaged in climate change, which is where most sustainable brands focus their investment, a staggering 69% believe in climate change but are yet to make the step into buying sustainable products and services. 

Brands have been too focused on targeting easy-to-convert wealthy consumers in big cities, leaving a significant chunk of the population untapped. However, commercial growth lies in selling to everyone.

Enter the 'persuadables', a  majority group of UK citizens that includes working-class families, ethnic minorities and those residing outside of big cities. 

The persuadables represent a massive commercial opportunity for sustainable brands. If advertising campaigns can cater to their nuances and cultural codes without pricing themselves out of this critical market, they can drive sales, lead to an increase in brand growth and encourage behaviour change at the same time.

However, to achieve this, a new approach is needed. 

Here are five marketing strategies that can shift consumer perceptions, encourage new behaviours and ultimately help sustainable brands drive sales with a new audience of persuadables.

Step one: Normalise new choices

In a world where climate change and sustainability are major talking points, brands must find clever ways to normalise sustainability and make it seamless for consumers to make new shopping decisions. 

To tap into the persuadables market, brands must think outside the box and employ creative marketing strategies to engage this new audience.

For example, they should emphasise convenience and accessibility to ensure new habits can be formed without making any drastic changes to lifestyle. This means offering a wide range of products that are easy to purchase through various channels, such as in-store, online or through mobile devices. 

We know persuadables share a strong sense of collective identity, so, to normalise new purchase behaviours, brands should find ways to weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life. 

Burger King, for example, has an ambitious goal of having a 50% plant-based menu by 2030. By normalising plant-based options, the brand is in a unique position to make sustainability the new norm quickly and easily.

Their ‘meat?’ campaign is a perfect example of this, playing on the visual similarities between animal products and plant-based options, while challenging even the most committed meat eaters to try a plant-based option. The campaign has striking print and out-of-home (OOH) ads with the tagline: 'Sorry for the confusion, meat lovers'.

Step two: Lead with personal benefit, not climate impact

Brands looking to encourage more sustainable shopping habits should focus on campaigns that are highly personal and tangible, making it easier for consumers to understand how changes can benefit their daily lives.

When it comes to advertising, it's important to lead with personal benefits rather than environmental impact. Persuadable consumers are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on factors like cost, convenience, familiarity and enjoyment. Brands can appeal to these consumers by highlighting the benefits of their products and using strong branding to make their offerings more attractive.

Take the campaign Media Bounty ran for Crackd, a pea-protein egg substitute. Instead of focusing on the product being vegan, we sought to shift perceptions and focus on the product’s taste, recipe inspiration and convenience. By showcasing how the product could be used in a variety of dishes, we helped Crackd appeal to a much wider range of consumers – by making it relatable. 

When measured against 182 brand evaluations by Sky AdSmart, our Crackd TV advertisement achieved the greatest increase in prompted brand awareness, along with a 14.9% uplift in aided advertising recall – 317% higher than the usual benchmark.

The brand recently won Product of the Year 2023.

Step three: Ditch the green tax 

Making sustainable choices is becoming harder due to the cost-of-living crisis. A recent survey from Kantar’s Sustainability Index 2022 found 65% of respondents want to be mindful of the environment, but high prices often stand in their way.

The problem is, many eco-friendly products are up to 85% more expensive than their traditional counterparts, making it a challenge for persuadables to make the switch. This reinforces the belief that sustainable products are only for the wealthy and widens the gap between good intentions and real-world actions.

But there's hope. If businesses take a closer look at their costs and figure out how to reduce mark-ups, they can make sustainable products more accessible and appealing to a wider range of consumers. Ditching the 'green tax' and putting long-term profit gains over short-term KPIs can help broaden your customer base and drive sales.

Step four: Use cultural codes to increase relevance

To make sustainability resonate with persuadables, campaigns need to reflect the unique cultural nuances that make up their world. Often, ads for eco-friendly products fall short and don't reflect the reality of the persuadables' experiences. 

That's why it's important to weave cultural codes into your personalisation strategies to make sure you're serving the right messages, on the right platforms, at the right time. This could include language, symbols, images and other cultural cues.

When done correctly, this can have an outsized impact on commercial performance. Sport England’s 'This Girl Can' campaign is a perfect example of this. The advertising campaign spoke directly to the 13 million women in the UK who wanted to participate more often in sports, but feared being judged. By flipping negative comments into positive ones and challenging traditional gender stereotypes, the campaign was able to connect with women on a much deeper level.

By tailoring advertising to cultural codes, brands can create a stronger emotional connection with the intended audience and dramatically increase the chance of conversion.

Step five: Run campaigns on platforms relevant to the audience

To reach persuadables, it's important to understand their evolving media habits and where they turn for news, content and information.

Targeting sustainability-focused channels may not be the best approach, as they likely won't be there. Instead, adapt to their diverse media diets by using a mix of broadcast channels and newer media options such as video-on-demand, apps, publishers and influencers.

For example, our recent campaign for Britain Remade focused on the West Midlands, and the media plan was as diverse as the community we aimed to reach. Not every campaign includes The Sun, Times of India, YouTube and Facebook

Brand awareness increased 3.5 times for those who saw the campaign but, most interestingly, there was a huge uplift in people who were positive about the direction of the West Midlands and the UK among the persuadable audience. 

Find an opportunity and capitalise

Persuadables are seeking accessible and tangible ways to be sustainable, but traditional marketing methods are missing the mark. 

To truly connect with these consumers, sustainable brands need to ditch the green tax, understand the cultural codes that resonate with their audiences, communicate the value of their products beyond eco-friendliness, and run campaigns on platforms that align with these consumers' evolving media habits. 

By reframing the conversation and tapping into the cultural nuances that matter to persuadables, sustainable brands can make a meaningful difference to their bottom line and significantly grow their market share.

Climate change is often framed as a huge threat. It is. It is big, complex and terrifying. But, as the persuadables themselves so brilliantly point out, there are success stories out there and they represent the biggest opportunity for brands – not just in 2023 but over the next decade.

After all, who thinks that we will be looking back in 2025 and saying to each other: "Remember that climate emergency in 2023. What a relief it's fixed."? 

We are in this for the long term. The time to rewrite your strategy is now.

Jake Dubbins is Managing Director of Media Bounty and co-founder of the Conscious Advertising Network


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