Does my brand need to be sustainable and ethical to succeed?

Let me tell ya, living in Melbourne I have met loads of unique characters and I’ve seen the city adopt many trends in my time. Over the past few years there’s been a huge shift in packaging towards sustainable and ethical materials, it is slowly becoming a part of our culture and has the power to completely destroy or grow brands. Like a band-aid over a gunshot wound we are curing problems caused by over consumption with mindful consumption. 

So, why are consumers becoming so obsessed with ‘morally acceptable’ packaging and what can we as marketers, brand managers or strategists learn from this? Of course, there are those few that buy in this way in order to make a difference in the world, however, we’re going to take a dive into some of the drivers of ethical and sustainable purchasing behaviour beyond simply doing good.

No one wants to be seen as ‘the bad guy’ often justifying their behaviour, when it comes to this type of packaging a lot of people genuinely think they would buy it. Unfortunately, humans are notoriously bad at predicting their own behaviour or put simply we’re not good at putting money where our mouths are – especially when in that moment your under no obligation to buy it. 

A bloody great book ‘The Myth of the Ethical Consumer,’ says that our values do not ultimately drive our purchasing behaviour many other things do like price, quality, value and might I add the design of the product. 

Consumers can also be lazy adopting the easiest social cause in their surroundings. For instance, you’re at the supermarket buying dinner to feed the kids, it’s been a long ass day and finally the couch with an ice-cold beer is in sight. The checkout chick asks if you would like to round up your order by 5 cents for charity, most people here would agree. She then says to donate you need to take your receipt and place it in the donation bin at the very back of the store essentially doing another full lap of the supermarket. I would argue most people here would say something like; screw that my ice-cold beer awaits!

Same goes for those who buy free range eggs but don’t recycle the carton, it’s easy to buy free range eggs but you need to think in order to recycle. Two different issues one easier than the other. 

Another theory as to why we buy sustainable and ethical is that a lot of consumers buy green or ethical in order to increase their social standing or gain social acceptance. As with most trends individuals jump on board the socially conscious band wagon in order to fit in or stand out. To get back to our supermarket analogy if you we’re asked to take the receipt to the back of the store and you had your closest friends or colleagues around you, would you in fact say no?

So, to answer your question; listen to your brand plain and simple. Consumers don’t know what they want – you need to tell them!

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