Is it just me, or have natural disasters around the globe been occurring at a faster rate than ever before? Every time I turn on the TV or go online to get updated on current events, I read or see a story about another earthquake, flood, or wildfire wiping out people’s houses and destroying parts of cities. According to a survey by the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change, 62% of Americans feel that climate change is real and occurring right now. That’s a 7% increase from the same study conducted last year.
As a result, people are educating themselves on the drivers behind climate change and are actively seeking out ways to improve and protect our planet. Social media has become a powerful and effective channel that has been adopted by people and brands alike. It provides people with a vehicle to share knowledge about the environmental shift, the best practices to combat it, and to recognize and advocate for environmentally conscious, green brands and companies. Social media gives users the ability to publicize this important global conundrum to a wider audience on a much deeper level, further growing awareness. While Facebook has been considered a more passive experience than, say, Google, given that people use Google when actively seeking out, or searching for, something, green brands have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the social channel in order to drive revenue and bolster their public brand perception. This is due to people’s appetite to share and talk about brands that align with their priorities of living a greener and more sustainable lifestyle.
At the World Water Week conference in Stockholm last week, brands showcased new products that aligned with the Stockholm International Water Institute’s goal of encouraging positive and proactive efforts by companies on water development issues. Levi’s was one of the brands in attendance, unveiling its “Waterless Jeans”: Levi’s Waterless Jeans are environmentally friendly in that they use less water in the finishing process than other jeans. In addition to this environmentally conscious product, Levi’s has created an experience on its site that educates people on the amount of water they consume in their daily routines. It also provides actionable tips and best practices that consumers can adopt in order to curb their water consumption.
Method, a company that makes eco-friendly cleaning products, offered fans the chance to win a year’s worth of free soap for liking it on Facebook and watching a video. This campaign not only provided tangible value (a year of soap!), but also reminded shoppers of the rewards for going green. By prompting fans to like the Method page, the brand can continue to educate people on their eco-friendly practices. To reinforce the social campaign, Method filmed several videos promoting sustainable practice that live on their YouTube channel.
Chipotle is currently sponsoring Cultivate, a festival in Chicago on Sept. 15 and in Denver on Oct. 6 that is dedicated to promoting sustainable and profitable food systems. The festival features local musicians, chefs and food from local farmers, some of whom provide Chipotle with its fresh produce. To date, Chipotle has relied heavily on social media to drive awareness about the events.
The challenge that I forecast when implementing these environmentally focused campaigns is that while each offer a great product and a stimulating and informative shopping experience throughout its website or storefront, I would not have been aware of these brand’s initiatives without actively seeking them out. If brands want to make a significant impact, build loyalty with people, and grow top-line revenue, they must invest in growing awareness about their eco-friendly initiatives and environmental responsibility. To do so, these companies must adopt a holistic, multi-dimensional campaign that connects with people on a more personal, subtle manner, thus humanizing the brand.
While digital and social are certainly important components of these campaigns, implementing an omni-channel, fully integrated awareness campaign that utilizes both traditional and emerging media tactics will ensure brands get credit for their environmental efforts, not only increasing their sales, but more importantly, empowering and educating people on how to reduce their carbon footprint and live a greener lifestyle. As more Americans adopt the belief that climate change is real and happening now, brands can position themselves as allies to combat this problem, instead of exacerbating it.