Informed consumers want more than the latest fashions, technologies and entertainment options: They are also concerned about environmental issues, fair trade and social equality. And they want to purchase their goods and services from companies responsive to these issues.
This connection between economic and social choices provides entrepreneurs with great marketing opportunities, and there are at least five reasons why adding a focus on sustainability or other social issues will help you expand your customer base.
1. Rational versus emotional
People believe their purchasing decisions are based on rational choices, but most consumers decide what to buy and whom to buy it from, based on their emotions. Hot-button issues such as deforestation or hunger in the developing world can become marketing tools if your company uses recycled paper and electronic receipts, or a percentage of your profits goes toward supporting a charity that nourishes hungry children.
Most consumers seek an emotional connection and want to feel good about how they spend their money. Marketing the actions your company takes to respond to selected hot-button issues provides that feel-good experience for your customers, which can translate into an emotional connection with your business. This effort leads to brand awareness and customer loyalty.
2. Cause-based spending
Some consumers are passionate about various causes, yet feel powerless in the face of government choices or corporate decision-making. These people choose to purchase products from companies that support their causes or oppose the same things they do, such as animal cruelty and genetically modified foods.
Cause-based spending can have a significant impact on small businesses. When faced with the option of purchasing two products of equal quality, 90 percent of U.S. shoppers choose to purchase the cause-branded product or buy from a cause-branded company.
3. Hot-button topics
These topics often arise from a trending news story, health issue or social challenge, and you can use these issues to effectively and tactfully promote your products or services. For example, recent issues with water quality in places like California and Flint resulted in a focused marketing campaign by a water filter company that provides consumer solutions to this problem.
The growing focus on sustainability also led Coca-Cola to include in its marketing focus its reduction of its environmental footprint via its Project Sunlight campaign.
You too can capitalize on public policy issues by using marketing tools that promote your commitment in a variety of ways. Sustainable practices, for example, save you money, and you can pass those savings along to customers. A sales event that says “We reduced our electric bill with solar panels sale” can bring lasting results.
3. Education as entertainment
Marketing to environmental or social causes can also take the form of entertainment. Chipotle chose to educate people about the importance of sustainable farming practices by using short animated films and the mobile game The Scarecrow. This ad campaign has had more than 12 million YouTube views since its inception.
The result was a perfect blending of education, emotional connection and brand awareness. Education as entertainment can be done on a much smaller scale with a simple but heartfelt video of your company president explaining why the company supports a particular cause and specifically how people who shop with you are participating in the process.
5. Social media trends
Whether it’s through Instagram or Twitter, trending topics on social media can help create targeted marketing and sales campaigns. You can integrate these issues with your current social media campaigns, such as reveal-based content and quizzes to increase target audience engagement.
Use your platforms to inform, educate and connect with like-minded consumers on the causes or issues you support. Your business will be linked to the trend and benefit from the exposure. Whatever your passion, you will find millions of others who share it and want to connect and support your efforts, which will translate into increased sales.
Cause-based marketing is an excellent opportunity to present your environmental, sustainable actions or social passion with your target audience. Your efforts will promote the issues you care about and your business.
People who support specific causes are more likely to spend their money at businesses that share their interests. Use social media and other opportunities to educate and entertain people about your cause as well as your products and services to build brand awareness and increase revenues.