How Brands Should be Approaching Sustainability in Experiential Marketing in 2020

With the Australian bush fires being linked to climate change and Greta Thunberg continuing to raise awareness on the environmental issues the world is facing consumer environmental awareness has never been higher. As a result, brands are increasingly facing pressure from consumers to adopt more sustainable practices.

Historically, experiential marketing has been seen as a fairly wasteful marketing strategy that was more focused on ROI and profits than being environmentally friendly. Things like wasted food and drinks, mass flyering, travel emissions and the usual residual waste that events generate make it easy to see the negative impact marketing events can have on the environment. 

As we enter the new year and a new decade we need to be looking closely at sustainability through a marketing lens and asking ourselves; How should brands be approaching sustainability in 2020?  

The impact of experiential marketing events

Marketing events, like most things, create waste and experiential marketing campaigns are especially wasteful, but this doesn’t have to be the case. If marketers and event planners take a closer look at the impact of our events or activations we can make our events and by extension our brands, more sustainable. 

By approaching our events with sustainability in mind from the planning stages all the way through to completion we can identify and reduce many of the negative impacts associated with them. Things like travel emissions from client meetings, importing products for sampling and the disposal of any residual waste can all have a large impact on the sustainability of an event. 

One way to help tackle the environmental impact of your marketing events is to invest in virtual events. The virtual event industry is expected to rapidly become more popular in the new decade and can be a great sustainable alternative to traditional marketing events. 

Use sustainable alternatives

There are plenty of ways to reduce the environmental impact of your events to make them more sustainable. Reduce travel emissions by using video conferencing whenever possible and working with local vendors and suppliers rather than importing products. Reduce waste by using eco-friendly materials and compostable or edible utensils for product sampling and be sure to provide plenty of recycling bins to dispose of used material in an environmentally friendly way. 

Using promotional products is still a relevant and useful marketing tool however instead of handing out the usual swag items consider making use of digital rewards to incentivise your audience. Niantic, the owner of Pokemon Go, used a similar tactic during their Earth Day event. Players were rewarded for engaging with the rubbish removal initiative with exclusive in-game rewards which resulted in thousands of players taking part across the globe.

Why sustainable branding matter?

Sustainable brands are continuing to become increasingly popular, which is in part due to how consumers are changing the way they connect with brands. Today’s consumers are interested in connecting with brands through shared ideals and sustainability is quickly becoming one of the most important focal points for many people. 

Sustainability is a great way to make your brand differentiate itself and stand out to consumers. The best way to stand out from the crowd is to make a connection with your target audience and climate change is something that most people are concerned about so if your brand can demonstrate that it shares that concern then you are more likely to connect with them. 

Sustainable branding has become the modern brand’s way to adapt to the changing requirements of consumers who are looking for brands that share their concern about something important. You don’t need to be reckless, consumers don’t expect you to adopt zero-waste policies straight away. But if you demonstrate that you are working towards a goal they care about you are more likely to win their trust and loyalty. 

Choose the right message

If you want to convince consumers that you are committed to being a sustainable brand you need to be specific about your goals and build the right message around your brand. Look at what your original brand’s aim was and think about how it connects with your new sustainable aims. 

A great example of this is Patagonia, who has made a continuous effort to focus on sustainability and raise awareness about climate change for their core values. These values are what pushed Patagonia to team up with Google to create the film series; This is Bears Ears, which aims to raise awareness of the threat to the national monuments of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. 

Create a positive tone of voice

While the reality behind sustainability is inherently serious and even depressing, it is important that you let your brand’s personality shine though if you want consumers to connect with you on a deeper level. Most people naturally avoid anything uncomfortable or distressing so try to make your message positive. 

Be transparent and honest with consumers. This helps to build trust with consumers and reminds them of your values. Get on social media and connect with consumers in a positive way and show how your sustainable initiatives are going. 

Encourage engagement

Your marketing efforts should also be encouraging your audience to engage with your message to help you achieve your sustainable goal. Brands should think about what they need their consumers to do to support their sustainability initiatives and encourage them to engage appropriately. For example, the WWF (The World Wide Fund for Nature) used a holographic elephant roaming the streets of London to raise awareness of the issue of animal trafficking. 

Not only did this campaign create a visual spectacle that was shared across social media, but the WWF also encouraged engagement and managed to gather 124,664 signatures for a petition created an experiential campaign that was focused on raising awareness on the issue of animal trafficking by creating a petition to end illegal wildlife trafficking. 

A change for the future

Sustainable branding is here to stay and we all have a responsibility to be more sustainable in how we work. Environmental awareness has become a non-negotiable point that needs to be part of your branding strategy. Brands need to be increasingly aware of how their services or products are affecting the environment and strive to reduce this impact. 

As marketers, we have the creative skills to bring sustainability to consumers and impact their purchasing decisions for the better. Sustainability is a global issue and we need to ensure we are doing our part. Sustainable brands have shown that they can stand the test of time. 

Dan Baker is a Content Writer that works with Eventeem, an experiential marketing and staffing agency based in the UK. Eventeem provides promotional, event and sampling staff across the UK for a wide range of industries. 

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