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Why brands need to avoid ‘greenwashing’ marketing campaigns

Trend Watching has declared ‘The End of Excess’ one of the key consumer trends for 2019.

Its team of forecasters tell us that millions of consumers are now focusing on the long-term impact of our ‘grab and go’ culture and will be demanding more brands to step up and take action in the year ahead.

It comes as little surprise after a year of environmental concerns dominating the media and cultural agenda, with single-use plastic often taking centre stage and even becoming Collins Dictionary’s word of the year.

In response, brands have increasingly been picking up the baton to take a stance on environmental issues.

Those that have managed to use this as a rallying call not only to affect societal change but to attract a loyal and growing customer group have seemingly struck upon a winning formula.

Recent YouGov Profiles data shows us that 52 per cent of British consumers would pay more for a product if they know it is good for the environment.*

So, as well as delivering for the greater good, it’s clear that there are significant business benefits to be reaped, too.

Where the motive is authentic, using an environmental policy as a competitive advantage should be applauded.

Yet, there’s unfortunately a growing number of brands left licking their wounds after an ill-thought out attempt.

Take boohoo.com for example, on one Friday afternoon pronouncing to ban wool from all products because of the harm to the environment, and the following day having to backtrack after coming under fire from the farming community.

What is clear is that a brand’s social purpose must be part of the fabric of the company, supported from boardroom to shop floor.

It must also be informed by a proper understanding of the issue, including how a stance could be received by consumers, suppliers and other stakeholder groups.

As such, communications professionals have a critical role to play in helping brands define their social purpose, as well as developing the campaigns that take them out into the wider world.

Firstly, we can give the business a deeper insight into their current and target customer groups, helping them understand the values, beliefs and the social issues most likely to engage, improve reputation and ultimately inspire purchase.

Adopting a social purpose without proper insight risks leaving customers ambivalent or, worse still, alienated.

Consulting a brand’s broader stakeholder group — from staff to supply chain — is equally important in ensuring they’ll buy-in rather than boycott your plan.

Building an army of advocates to stand behind your brand takes a lot more than a pledge to drive headlines.

Today’s socially conscious customers are seeking brands that commit to long-term, sustainable and meaningful change.

* YouGov Profiles data, 10th Feb 2019

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