3 Lessons in green marketing

If you want tourists to stop and take pictures in front of your building, you paint it bubblegum pink. If you want to target a Purpose-seeking audience with marketing campaign about the health of the environment, you paint it green. But there’s an important distinction between campaigns that translate into actual impact towards a cleaner planet, and ones that have the veneer of a helping hand, but are actually sneaking their hands into consumers’ wallets. This discrepancy has real repercussions for the entire arena of eco-friendly marketing — according to Harvard Business Review, 65% of people say they want to shop from sustainable brands, but only 26% actually do. There are multiple factors behind this, but one is certainly an inability for brands with an authentic message to reach through the noise and competition to communicate that to consumers in a way that sticks.

Though we at Zenzi have successfully represented clients across the Values Wheel, we have a strong history with Purpose-Seeking brands and customers, especially. Perhaps it is because their messaging resonates so much with our values as a team, or perhaps because when stationed in Southern California, these companies are more common. Regardless, we have learned a few lessons along the way of how to share the Purpose-driven, eco-friendly message in a way that makes an impact. 

Lesson 1: Consumer Motivations Might Not Be What You Think

We worked with local company New Leaf Biofuel to help spread the news about their oil-collection services to restaurants in the San Diego area — a service that directly benefited the area (and the environment overall) by allowing the production of biodiesel, which returned no hazardous fumes when burned by trucks and other vehicles, thus cleaning up the local air pollution. However, what we found through our research process was that most restaurant owners that were existing or potential clients were Tradition-Seekers, and occupied a more conservative ideological space. 

So, we met them where they were at. Converting used cooking oil to biofuel is good for the planet, but it is also good for the country, reducing our reliance on other nations for fuel. And New Leaf’s mission is good for the local air, but it is also good for the local community, creating jobs for their expanded facility. Sometimes the messaging of helping the planet is too large and lofty to land with certain consumers. They need to understand it on a more personal level, and relating these morals back to their community and their country is a strategic way to make the messaging and the mission more approachable.

Lesson 2: Utilize the Power of Like-Minded People

We have been working with Aptera for a while now, and as far as sustainable goes — they’re the concept incarnate. They have worked incredibly hard to produce an electric-solar vehicle that burns absolutely no fuel, releases absolutely no fumes, and is so lightweight and efficient that it only has to be charged a handful of times a year. The disconnect lies in trying to explain the concept to people unfamiliar with the exact mechanics of engineering an electric vehicle (ahem — most of us.) It’s important not to sacrifice the details nor dumb down the impressive resume of engineering accomplishments that each Aptera represents. 

Which is where the Aptera Ambassadors come in. Whenever you are marketing a product that utilizes advanced scientific processes in its mission to be sustainable, there will always — always — be someone who knows exactly what it all means and is excited to engage. They may in fact be more energized about the science than anything else, and that is something that can be used to your advantage. We have assembled a group of over 50 people who are passionate about Aptera, understand its mechanics, and want to share that information with others. They are our brand ambassadors, and we work with each of them to understand and optimize how they can share information and represent Aptera within their community — be it a geographic region, professional field, or online space of like-minded people. Through our ambassadors, we have been able to amplify Aptera’s presence and allowed for people who understand the science to explain it in their own words to those who are interested — something that isn’t always appropriate for the main brand voice.

Lesson 3: Don’t Just Say It …  Show It. Then Keep on Showing It.

In the early 2010s, we were working with Nestle for their brand Fruit Bars. A product with a lot of industry competition and a parent company that had a lot of precedent to meet. Anyone who has worked with a large company can relate to the fact that while bigger size can mean bigger budget to work within, it can also mean a bigger set of regulations to make sure each product fits within the overarching narrative of the brand. 

So instead of trying to share a written message of support to the health of the planet and the agricultural community, we showed up instead … with fruit trees in tow. We successfully planted dozens of fruit trees across the US. And then the next year … we did it again. It’s important for consumers to understand that a generous act isn’t just a PR stunt but an authentic action that represents the values that the company represents. By continuing our tree-planting mission for multiple years, we helped Fruit Bars and Nestle demonstrate their dedication to the eco-friendly mission. And guess what? Other brands have since done the same with planting fruit trees! A good idea can spark widespread positive changes by setting a standard for competitors.