A Business Strategy That Is Evergreen
The first and most important step to building your environmental presence is finding a cause that matters to your company and your target consumer. Since people are savvier than ever in scrutinizing messages, make sure that the next generation of Millennials -- who are being courted by companies because of their level of environmental awareness and willingness to pay more to buy green -- will agree with your long-term environmental position.
What's more, the dramatic shifts in our economy in the past year have pushed people to focus more and more on their local communities and causes. The wagons are circling closer to home and marketing should follow suit.
Here are some considerations when building your brand's environmental presence.
Localize When Possible
Home is where the heart is. Aligning yourself with a cause in your own backyard makes a greater impact and is more likely to stick in someone's mind. For example, planting trees in Colorado where forests are being decimated by the deadly bark beetle is more impactful on the daily lives of your consumers than planting trees in the Amazon. Visualizing the benefit of doing something so far away from home is hard. Localizing a national campaign may involve more sophisticated planning, but brings deeper benefits.
Community-based values stand out stronger during lean times, and retail brings you into everyone's day-to-day routine. Retail serves as the community-gathering place where you can serve up messages for a local cause in a meaningful way, and retailers are intimately tied to the local communities they serve. For example, Stater Bros. Markets and Coca-Cola rallied behind a regional cause and raised funds along with consumers to replant one million trees in Southern California parks that had burned in wildfires through the "Reforest California" campaign last year.
Challenge people with a call to action rather than a passive, transactional donation. I think Disney's "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" campaign is a great example of marketing that invites consumers to take action and be involved as part of the solution. The vast majority of consumers want to be involved, even as most may not know how; Disney's program makes it easy and rewarding.
Synchronize marketing messages with environmental messages. Use all communications channels -- advertising, sponsorship, public relations, social media and point of sale -- to put together a well-rounded program. Odwalla started a "Plant a Tree for Free" program two years ago, almost before social media was the mainstream marketing vehicle it is now, and saw it spread virally at lightning speed. Two years later, the program has become a cornerstone of its marketing plan, touching retail, social, advertising, sponsorships and PR, and is deeply connected to what the brand stands for in consumers' minds.
Plant a Tree and Nurture It
Whatever you choose -- whether water conservation, reforestation or renewable energy -- stick with it and watch it grow. Developing an authentic environmental program is much like growing a tree: It takes time and needs plenty of water before it bears fruit.