Wednesday, 29 April 2015

How Your Eco Credentials May Be Scaring Your Customers Away

eco labels

Profit is the main motive of most businesses, but there are also others that are guided by ethics. Offset Warehouse is only one among the hundreds of brands that deal in ethical and eco-friendly products, and strive to make a difference to the world.

When ethical trade is the focus of an organisation, it is tricky to effectively market the brand while also helping customers realise what you stand for. There are several reasons for this. With no clear definition of what “ethical” or “sustainable” actually means, consumers will not be entirely clear on how your brand is ethical. Added to this, with such broad meaning, every other brand can claim to be eco in some way too, and you may realise that your USP isn’t so special anymore. Some brands who claim to be “eco-friendly” may not be at all – read our article on the effects of Greenwashing to find out more. Often the general perception of eco goods is that these products are expensive, but low quality. Hence regular shoppers may tend to stay away from them. This affects the brands that are genuinely eco-friendly.

As a result customers, eco-savvy or not, are put off by products labelled “eco-friendly”, “ethical”,“green” etc, as these do not always live up to their expectations.

marketing ethics

Mariano DeGuzman of the eco-friendly knitwear brand Appalatch soon discovered that he would have to change his marketing strategy to survive. Appalatch was initially advertised as a green company with products aimed at environmentalists who were hooked to sustainability. But to their surprise, they discovered that this group was reluctant to pay more for a product based on it’s green credentials alone, even if they were higher-quality, longer-lasting clothes. DeGuzman was taken aback to find that instead, conscious customers seeking high-quality clothes were the ones attracted to the story behind their brand, as well as their high quality. This led Appalatch to change their marketing strategy. By focusing on the unique qualities of each of their products and sharing the emotional stories behind their designs, their sales increased by almost 20%.

Know The Pros & Cons of Marketing Your Ethics

Consumers understand the importance of sustainability and appreciate genuine products that conform to their expectations of green. Convincing them, however, is not easy. Environmentally responsible customers are wary of the word “green”. As I mentioned before, the word “green” doesn’t have a finite meaning, and many brands take that opportunity to claim to be sustainable when they aren’t. So marketing your product with these buzzwords may be your undoing.

What a business needs to realise is that being environmentally-friendly is great, but consumers care more about quality, price and the story behind the product. For example, let’s take a look at Ada Zandition.

Ada Zandition Couture Catwalk, Sring Summer 2015, London Fashion

This premier couture collection features futuristic and bold designs that boast creativity and originality. It is simultaneously an ethical brand that responsibly sources fabrics and collaborates with charities, but their marketing strategy focuses on their fashion forward design, which just happens to be ethically made as well. What we can learn from this is that we can communicate our story and the ethical stand of our organisation, but let our designs speak first.

How To Convey Your Ethics & Moral Stand To Customers

You may be wondering, if I let my “designs speak first” how do I let my environment savvy customers learn about my brand’s ethics? There are a few ways to inform and educate customers about the story behind our product: product labels, the company website and advertising campaigns. Here’s a look at each of them.

eco label

Swing Tags

Design garment labels and swing tags of your product in such a way that they discuss the ethically conscious stand of your brand. Fabric and woven labels may be small, but they are an incredibly easy way to share the product sourcing details and mission of the organisation. Such a small space requires concise and clear messaging – ideal for quickly conveying messages.

Website

Another place to cite your environmental credentials and discuss it in more detail is your company website. Use this space to define your concept of green, as it is a word that means different things to different people. Highlight the measures you take to ensure your materials are sourced ethically and the efforts you put in to make sure your brand is eco-friendly. State only the facts and strive to distinguish yourself from the other brands that call themselves green, by actually delivering what you claim.

Advertising

The third option is using effective advertising campaigns. Here is a brilliant advertisement by Patagonia. This ad, which was run in the New York Times on Black Friday, grabs attention with it’s provocative headline, “Don’t buy this jacket”.

patagonia-ad

This served two intentions. The first was to encourage consumers to lighten their environmental footprint by only buying clothes that they actually require. The second was to gain attention for the product that was advertised. This ad communicates the brand’s ethical stance and mission to find solutions for environment crises.  The team made sure that the jacket was noticed by this unconventional message and the jacket ended up as one of their best sellers. The cynical amongst you may be thinking – was this just a PR stunt? It made more people buy the jacket – not less – however you look at it is also a novel approach that gains publicity for Patagonia and tell’s their customers where their ethics lie.

I hope this gives you some inspiration on best way to market your eco-credentials without compromising sales. Understand your target consumer and plan your strategy so the product appeals to them. This way, you not only encourage them to take an ethical stand, but one that they think is the best quality and fashion choice as well.

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