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Sustainable Marketing: What Works, What Doesn’t
Sustainable Marketing: What Works, What Doesn’t
The Environmental Leader has recently released what is already one of the most relevant sustainable marketing studies ever made. Sustainable Marketing: What Works, What Doesn’t takes a critical look at sustainable marketing and digs up eye-opening information such as the sustainable marketing effects on product pricing, what media are most used in sustainable marketing campaigns, and which of these are most effective.

More than 80% of respondents indicated they expect to spend more on sustainable marketing in the future.

Environmental Leader
1. Most Marketers Intend to Spend More on Sustainable Marketing

More than 80% of respondents indicated they expect to spend more on sustainable marketing in the future. Among manufacturers, that number is significantly higher. At least half, if not more, of respondents plan to engage in digital marketing efforts in the future.


2. Marketers Believe Sustainable Marketing More Effective, Not Less

28% of marketers themselves think sustainable marketing is more effective than other marketing messages, compared to 6% of marketers who think it is less effective. Management is even more optimistic, with 46% of them indicating a belief that sustainable marketing is more efficacious. Just 23% of folks in operations think sustainable marketing is more effective.


3. Smaller Firms Spend More

Companies with smaller marketing budgets tend to spend more on sustainable marketing. Firms with a marketing budget of under $250,000 spend just over 26% on sustainable marketing, while those with budgets of more than $50 million spend 6% on sustainable marketing.


4. Digital Tops Sustainable Marketing Media

By far the most popular medium for sustainable marketing was digital & social, with 74.2% of respondents having spent money online, followed by print (49.8%), direct (40%), outdoor (7%), radio and TV (7%) and mobile (6%). 29% of marketers with budgets between $10 million and $50 million, and 25% of those with budgets of more than $50 million, used outdoor, compared to 7.3% for all marketers. Mobile was also a popular medium for marketers with the highest budgets: 14% of those in the $10 million to $50 million budget category, and 16% in the more than $50 million budget category have spent money on mobile, compared to 6% for all marketers.


When t comes to managers and the C-level suite, 46% believe that sustainable marketing is more efficient than non-sustainable marketing.

Environmental Leader
5. Sustainable Marketing Is More Effective than Some Marketers Think

Those firms that used the most trackable media are also those that said sustainable marketing worked better than the average marketing message. 48% of respondents who employed direct marketing in their media mix said that it was more or much more effective, much like those who used digital (43%). That contrasts with those respondents who had employed TV, 25% of whom said it was more effective than average. This indicates that sustainable marketing works better than those who don’t or can’t measure results think it does.

6. Marketers That Track Marketing Spend and Its Relation to Sales Believe People Will Pay More for Ethical Products

Similarly, when asked if customers would pay more for ethical products or to a sustainable company, it was the direct-oriented media that showed the more positive results. Of the people who used the two least traceable media, TV and outdoor, only 29% and 25% respectively indicated that customers would pay more. That compares to 44%, 42% and 46% for digital, print and direct respectively.

7. Larger Companies More Likely to Target Employees Rather Than Customers

Organizations with media budgets of more than $10 million annually showed a much higher proclivity to have their own employees as their target audience. In fact, that was by far the most popular sustainable marketing target for those firms, with customers being targeted in about 70% of their efforts. Firms with budgets less than $250,000 were about 80% more likely to target customers directly, and only about half targeted their own staff.

8. Marketers and Management Say Marketers Have Control; Ops Says No

50% of marketers themselves indicate they have complete or consultative control of sustainable marketing, while 57% of PR folks say that they have control of the sustainability program. Sales and operations, on the other hand, are skeptical that marketers have so much control of the sustainability programs, with just 41% and 21% respectively saying control lies in the hands of marketers. However, those in management tended to agree that control of the sustainability program is in the hands of marketers, at 50%.

9. Organizations Already Taking Active Steps to Become Sustainable

In terms of actual sustainable actions, about half of companies reported that they are consciously taking steps to become more sustainable. The most popular actions are saving/reducing energy in operations, at 59%, and changing products to reflect sustainable values (such as changing ingredients, packaging or intended use), at 54%.

10. Smaller Companies Think Sustainable Marketing Is More Effective than Larger Companies

Nearly half of respondents said the decision-makers at their companies hold sustainable marketing in high regard, compared to just 15% who said decision-makers hold it in low regard. Companies with decision-makers who have a low regard for sustainable marketing tend to be those with the larger marketing budgets, especially in the budgets between $10 million and $50 million per year, where more than a quarter indicated that their decision-makers held sustainable marketing in low regard. This indicates that smaller companies may believe sustainable marketing to be more effective than larger companies do.

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