Marketing Minute: The great marketing reset - October 2022
By Paul Friederichsen
There has been a lot in the news about “The Great Reset” when it comes to converting from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Floorcovering companies should consider a similar kind of reset that deals with marketing themselves as sustainable brands. There’s no doubt that a greater emphasis on sustainability is here to stay and will affect how businesses respond, especially when it comes to marketing themselves. But the right response is no longer simply that you are a sustainable business-that is expected to be a given at this point-but that you are helping your customer or employee or community live more sustainably. That’s what should drive brands to reset their marketing commitments, activities and communications going forward, be they in manufacturing or retail.
Well-defined brands make it easier for companies to separate themselves from their competitors and reach their markets in a more influential and compelling way. From the customer’s perspective, however, the real purpose of brands is to serve. Traditionally, brands serve their customers by making their purchase decisions easier, satisfying their needs with greater value and improving their quality of life with trusted, reliable consistency. Those things will not be enough anymore.
In the new reality of climate change, global warming and social ethics, the traditional “four Ps” of marketing (product, price, place, promotion) will lack sufficient relevance to connect and motivate most consumers. The great reset for brands requires companies to also consider people, planet and profit. As outlined in a 2017 Forbes article, this “triple bottom line” informs how companies achieve a sustainable direction that goes beyond simply maximizing profits as the end-all, be-all of strategic goal setting. That is because the reset of brands that these companies create, manage and market must appeal to a new dominant consumer force: Millennials.
Millennials, defined as a group born between 1982 and 1996, have now surpassed the Baby Boomer generation in terms of population (72.12 million versus 70.68 million). More so than Boomers, Millennials tend to prioritize environmental wellness, human health, resource security, fair trade and social equity. The old adage in the floorcovering business that “all things being equal, a brand with a sustainable reputation is a tie-breaker and nothing more” is becoming less and less true. Millennials are having children, buying homes and selecting flooring in a world they are inheriting-a world in crisis. They want brands that are on the same page with them, and they are willing to part with some of the billions in annual spending power they possess as a reward. In fact, almost one third are worried about climate change, and 70% of them will pay more for brands that support a cause they care about.
The difference in approaching the Millennial market is best summed up by this quote from “sustainability solutionist” Solitaire Townsend, “Talking about your own values isn’t enough; consumers want you to help them live theirs. And that’s the secret to true purpose-serving the consumer rather than talking about yourself. Too much of the cause-related marketing, sustainability or CSR [corporate social responsibility] activities of brands promote what the company is doing, rather than helping the consumer to make their own difference.”
In this new reality, evidence of sustainability must be more than bulleted product features, like “resealable lid” or “resists scuffs and scratches.” You may have successfully checked a box, but have you truly communicated your brand’s commitment to what 88% of Millennials want, for the brands they purchase to help them make a difference? Aside from avoiding the notorious tendency to engage in greenwashing, brands should instead embrace ways to engage their consumers in people, planet and profit issues that hit home. It is not enough to say you are green. You must practice green and show ways your customers can do so, too.
This is often easier said than done. According to greenbusinessbureau.com, “In 2019, a mere 16% of executives stated sustainability as a built-in business function. The majority (50%) of organizations thought sustainability was ‘fairly well’ integrated, as opposed to an ideal ‘extremely well’ target.” The article goes on to observe that the lack of integrating sustainability into the corporate mindset “stems from defective structure, planning and discipline,” and “to bridge this gap, businesses need a clearly defined sustainability program.” While true, sometimes it helps just to look around and see what others are doing to get started.
HOW RESET BRANDS WORK
Helping your customer to live more sustainably and make a difference can involve any number of methods for reset brands. This will range from developing products with lower environmental impacts to supporting local community groups and/or advocating for a healthy work-life balance for employees, according to greenbusinessbureau.com. The floorcovering industry is filled with brands that are “walking the walk” and setting examples for consumers and employees with how they operate. Here are a few examples within the last 60 days:
• Engineered Floors’, Shaw’s and Mohawk’s recognition as a “Best-in-State Employer” by Forbes
• Shaw and others encouraging volunteerism with the United Way
• CFL Flooring joining a sustainability advocacy council
• RFCI and its membership supporting a new sustainability platform for easier access to environmental product information
• Torlys adopting new, rigorous, self-imposed sustainability standards
• Dow turning sustainability into a fun sport and community invigoration event
• Mannington utilizing birds, not pesticides, to reduce the local insect population
• Tarkett holding sustainability retreats for its staff
What all these examples have in common is that the companies are doing more than achieving an environmental certification (as important and costly as that is) or touting their own environmental credentials (as necessary and impressive as they are). They are showing by example how they value environmental wellness, human health, resource security, fair trade and social equity. These activities, events and commitments are the genuine outgrowth of corporate consciousness for helping consumers, employees and communities to live more sustainably.
HOW TO DO A SUSTAINABILITY RESET
Floorcovering brands that have been successful in sharpening their sustainability reputation and connection with their customers are led by a sustainability officer, someone who is dedicated to the direction, implementation and marketing of the sustainability efforts and is in coordination with the c-suite, human resources and marketing departments. But you need not be a multimillion-dollar corporation to operate as a sustainable brand. You just need a plan. Determine what initiatives to tackle (and don’t try to do too much at once), make social responsibility initiatives part of your plan, and communicate your stance and your activities to everyone. For an indepth look at a ten-step plan, refer to greenbusinessbureau.com’s “How to Create a Sustainability Program: A 10 Step Guide to Creating a Purpose-Driven Business.”
Brands that are not empathetic to their consumers are not positioned to succeed long term. They will increasingly become irrelevant and lose marketshare to brands that are. On the other hand, by making sure their brands are reset and marketing to help their customers live more sustainably by leadership and example, they will continue to grow.
Time to reset.
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