Consumer Views on Brands and Sustainability

Consumer Views on Brands and Sustainability

Oct 20, 2021 • 3 min

Although consumers care more about sustainability today than ever before, not all audiences care about sustainability in the same way. A recent survey run by CDA found the majority of people are more willing to purchase from or work for brands that have a commitment to sustainability — but it’s important for brands to understand the role sustainability messaging plays in the customer journey before adopting it as a part of your marketing strategy.

The “Woke” Consumer

If you are unfamiliar with the term “woke,” it is defined by Merriam-Webster as, aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, and it gained popularity (or notoriety, depending on your political leaning) this last year during the pandemic. The topic of sustainability has been top of mind for many, and has steadily gained the interest of the general public over the years. According to a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group:

“70% of people are more aware now than before COVID-19 that human activity threatens the climate and that environmental degradation can threaten humans.”

As consumers become more conscious about the environment, they are going to expect the brands they use to do the same. Marketers need to understand how their audience(s) view sustainability and personalize their efforts and strategy to meet those views. By understanding what your audience values, you can create an authentic direction and communication that in turn creates brand loyalty and drives business impact.

Differing Views on Sustainability

Audience views on sustainability can be influenced by a variety of different variables, like age or cultural background. Studies have revealed a variety of trends and insight in regards to how different audiences view sustainability:

  • Younger audiences (Millenials and GenZers) are more likely to engage with social media content related to climate change as well take action outside of social media i.e. donating money and volunteering. Pew Research

  • Although consumers agree that we should prioritize alternative fossil fuels, older generations are more opposed to phasing out gas powered vehicles than younger generations. Pew Research

  • About 40% of African American and Hispanic adults say that waste is a big problem in their community versus others who noted water pollution and drinking water safety. Pew Research

  • There are distinct trends in regards to how different racial/ethnic groups view climate change and global warming. Yale Climate Change Communication

  • Broader cultural values play an important role. In individualistic countries (like the United States), personal concerns motivate people to take environmental action. In collectivistic countries (like Japan), social norms are more likely to drive environmental conscious behaviors in collectivistic countries. Psychological Science

  • Worldwide, only 45% of consumers prefer brands that use sustainable and environmentally friendly messaging. Statista

Scratching Below the Surface

Not all audiences care about sustainability in the same way and it is a marketers job to find out what it is their audience values. The steps taken to understand your audience needs to go deeper than just understanding trends, and towards understanding the “why” behind the trend. It is not enough to say, “my audience cares about air pollution” when there are a variety of different reasons why individuals care about this topic.

One reason why many consumers care about the environment is that they feel it is directly related to various social issues. For example, an environmental issue like air pollution could cause individuals to want to drive places rather than walk or bike in fear of breathing unhealthy air. This not only further adds to the air pollution problem, but also has deterred the individual from getting exercise from alternative forms of transportation, which in turn contributes to the obesity epidemic. By forming this type of understanding of your audience’s view on sustainability and aligning brand messaging around it, brands can create stronger brand loyalty and brand advocates.

Audiences care about a brand’s values and talk about brands that share similar values to them. Consumers increasingly expect companies to take a stance on social issues like the environment, especially in the past 12 months.

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