Successful integration of marketing and sustainability strategy can help deliver change; achieving such integration can be difficult

For many years, marketing and sustainability departments have been at logger-heads. Marketers on their quest to persuade customers to buy more, sustainability pushing to reduce levels of consumption.

Now increasingly, we’re witnessing a shift in both the marketing and sustainability departments of leading organisations – a joined up approach to influencing customer behaviour and persuading more responsible purchasing habits.

However, aligning the strategy and resources of both departments can be a troublesome task. In our recent webinar, titled Influence customer behaviour through integrated marketing and sustainability, 73% of over 1,000 listeners believe their organisation has not successfully integrated marketing and sustainability to influence customer behaviour.

Below are some tips to help companies improve the integration of their marketing and sustainability strategy to drive customer behaviour change:

Start at the top

This might sound an obvious tip, but it’s one often overlooked: if organisations lead by example, customers are far more likely to follow. A company radiates its values, and if all departments are tasked with pulling in the same, sustainable direction by those at the top, the external message, brand values and general purpose generated become progressively evident to the consumer.

Providing management with direct access to live sustainability projects is one sure-fire way of driving support and messaging around sustainable initiatives internally.

Ensure internal integration

During the recent webinar, Rupert Maitland-Titterton, senior director of corporate communications, public affairs and sustainability at Kellogg Company, stated that their marketing and sustainability departments report to one and other and see each other every day. This ensures that ideas are shared and a feeling of inclusion rather than ‘us and them’ is created.

Not all organisations can achieve this level of integration, but regular meetings and idea sharing will help integration of departments and strategy.

Understand your customer

Over the past few years there’s been a seismic shift: with customers increasingly demanding a more sustainable and responsible approach from companies, companies have had to adapt and become more customer-centric.Marketing departments are at the heart of this shift as they understand that delivering what customers need and want is the strategy for business success. Sustainability can and should be an integral part of this process, providing industry-data and primary research from workshops and questionnaires with key stakeholder groups.

Keep messaging consistent

A company can’t expect customers to change their behaviour in-line with their goal, if that goal and corresponding messaging is changing. Business is fast-paced and situations evolve quickly. However, companies need to make a choice and stick with it for at least 5 years. “This helps customers understand and buy-in to the change that you’re trying to achieve,” stated Rupert Maitland-Titterton.

Unilever, HP, Tesla, Patagonia, M&S and Interface are just a few examples of companies that have set a long-term sustainable course which customers are helping to achieve.

One successful messaging tactic is to not lecture customers. Dr Kirstie McIntyre, director WW environmental operations at HP, believes “companies need to make it part of the value proposition. Who wouldn’t want to save money on electricity use and bills?” David Brunt, global products and services director at AkzoNobel, describes this as finding the “win-win situation”.

Make sustainability the norm

Companies can sometimes make the mistake of marketing their products on their sustainable merits when customers are just looking for a product that meets their own basic needs. Dr Kirstie McIntyre believes companies “shouldn’t market their products or service as a new sustainable initiative. It should be marketed as part of the standard product offering.” Doing this helps reaffirm sustainable products and services as the norm for both the customer and industry as a whole.

Rupert Maitland-Titterton concurs with this: “companies don’t need to inform customers that they’re acting responsibly every time.”

Some of the above tips are taken from a recent webinar delving into this issue. Click here to access the full webinar recording

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