With the P word firmly in the spotlight, it is becoming clear that businesses need to up their game and start rethinking their relationship with their good old friend plastic and the sustainability agenda. With stockists asking tough questions and consumers using their purchasing power to support sustainable ethics, change is imminent. Not everyone is going to jump on the eco band wagon as quickly as the millennials, but there are many appealing benefits to making sustainable change, rather than just ‘green washing’. So how can brands implement sustainable change and ride the anti-plastic wave without wiping out?
The USP sell-by date
Every USP has a sell-by date. Moving fast in any industry is key to survival, and failing to innovate can leave you dated, out of touch and unappealing; putting your business at risk. There is massive potential to be seen in this new-found environmental movement, but you need to move fast if you want to catch that eco USP before it becomes universal.
Take Kodak, for example, a leading camera manufacturer that, because they were blinded by their own success with film, failed to see the massive change in the market towards digital photography. In fact, because they were completely tied up with film and print, they missed the digital boat on three occasions — and in 2012 declared bankruptcy. Their failure shows just how critical it is to embed innovative practices into your business, in order to stay ahead of the game. Adapt, adapt, adapt. And if you don’t? Well, prepare yourself for a reduced shelf life.
Central to all of this is a genuine understanding of the consumer headspace; seeing the world as they do — all of it, not only things that relate directly to your product, but growing and global trends and movements. What’s out there? What matters? What’s on the wind? Stockists do it regularly. They have their finger on the pulse when it comes to what the consumer wants, and they’ll drop product like a stone if they get a whiff that people are beginning to move against it.
And so it is with plastic and sustainability. It’s been on the wind for a while and now the weather’s moving in fast. For those who haven’t already done so, now is the time to practice our forward thinking and innovate sustainable practices, in order to remain relevant and stay in the game. Look, listen and action the changes needed to keep you on the shelf and ready for tomorrow’s customers.
Selling that feel good feeling
Adapting to consumer-led change will not only make your brand look good, it can convey that feel-good factor too. Making consumers feel good for using your product or service is more powerful than you think. Not only will they do it more frequently, but they will talk about it too. And you can’t put a price on Social Transmission – or a good old chat with friends. Did you know that every hour there are more than 100 million conversations about brands? In fact, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20%-50% of all purchasing decisions.* Jonah Berger: Contagious.
Mark Schaefer’s Three Revolutions of Branding, are defined as: the end of lying, the end of hiding, and the end of control. Consumers have access to vast amounts of information, leaving inauthentic brands exposed and vulnerable. And in the end, once a brand is out there, over 60% of material shared is out of the brand’s control. Leading sustainability expert, Mark Shayler, goes on to say how important it is for brands to stand for something bigger than themselves. By being open and honest with your consumer about where you’re heading, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, you will earn the respect and customer loyalty that you seek. Consumers are no longer fooled and are making more considered and educated purchases. By using the psychology of influence, of which that feel good factor is a part, you create a more genuine connection with your consumers — one that can last.
Built in, not bolted on
So, now we’ve explored the thinking, you have a choice: When it comes to sustainability, do you want to play catch-up or lead the way? That’s rhetorical really; leading the way is the only way, when it comes to business survival. But for this to happen change needs to be built in, not bolted on. It is very easy for companies to talk the talk, but you will be found out if you don’t walk the walk. There’s nowhere to hide, remember. So, no more green-washing, because you will be hung out to dry. Obviously, it won’t be easy to tackle sustainability all at once, but the key is forward thinking, predicting shifts in trends and asking the questions you’ve been avoiding.
What can your business do to build sustainability into its development, practices and processes to give you products and services that are ahead of the curve? Big brands can buy compliance and tick consumer-led boxes, but they require consumer demand to change. More agile businesses can bake it in by thinking about sustainability — by building it into product development and processes.
Sustainable practices can lead you to products and services that are more appealing to customers in the end. For example, plant-based food company, Beyond Meat, was recently valued by an IPO at $1.2 billion. It’s widely known that we cannot continue to farm meat in the way that we are or to consume it at current levels. The ‘alternative to meat’ market is worth $140 billion over the next decade. Investors know this, they’ve seen an opportunity and asked themselves those challenging questions: If all meat farming ceased, then what? What is the future of protein-based food? And they’ve decided Beyond Meat could be it, or at least it’s a step in the right direction.
These WHAT IF questions are vital to the survival and future-proofing of any business or industry. You can’t afford to wait for your customers to change — it can hit the bottom line hard, compromise your reputation, and cost considerable time and money in damage limitation.
The way to survive is to foresee what’s coming down the line, before it runs you over. Our What If workshops help our clients with exactly these issues and lead to some highly innovative solutions designed to direct change and set them up for the future.
Written by Kesia Hemming & Kate Gallagher