Brands can’t ignore sustainability anymore — not when 88% of consumers want brands to help them make a difference by being eco-friendly.
And when it comes to the companies that are certified to a sustainability standard, while 37% of large firms boast certification, only 13% of small firms can claim the same. In this area, it seems that large companies have a leg-up on the competition, out-performing both small and medium-sized brands.
But creating sustainable products and services isn’t enough, you also need to market them to the right audience. And what many companies don’t realize is that, just like there isn’t only one type of sustainable brand, there’s no one singular sustainable audience.
Therefore, choosing which of these audiences to market to will make all the difference. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into the various sustainability-driven audiences and help you choose which one best fits your brand’s needs.
The Key Sustainability Audiences That You Can Target
Using our own brand tracking software, we conducted research into audiences that are largely swayed by a brand’s environmentally friendly status.
We found four main audiences, which we will discuss below.
1. The Enthusiastic Expert
The Enthusiastic Expert is a consumer who prioritizes whole-system sustainable thinking. More often than not, they’re between 35 to 45-year-old, live in rural areas, and have a medium to high level of education.
These are individuals who are dedicated to sustainable and eco-friendly living, so you’ll need to put in the work to convince them that your brand meets their high expectations. After all, these are the people who place a brand’s sustainability above all else when deciding where to purchase products and services.
As Enthusiastic Experts are so tuned in to sustainability, they believe that any brand committing environmental damage should pay higher taxes. They’re also very strict with themselves about avoiding brands that don’t act sustainably.
In terms of how this audience compares with their peers, Enthusiastic Experts are a lot more vocal about environmental matters and are usually more knowledgeable about sustainable brands, too.
Follow Their Lead: Boden
One brand well-equipped to convince the Enthusiastic Expert to hand over with their hard-earned cash is Boden, a clothing line targeted towards older fashion fans with children.
Boden is well-known for its exceptional sustainability policies, which include supporting an ethical supply chain, reducing environmental impact, and supporting equally responsible and sustainable charities.
Boden has begun using its sustainable profile as a way to penetrate a fledgling industry: children’s clothing. While this industry should be booming — after all, new customers are born every day — many big brands are closing down. Such as Mamas & Papas and Mothercare in the UK.
For other brands to avoid falling victim to the same fate, they need to create original, long-lasting, and affordable products for their customers. Boden did just that this year by launching new clothing made from Econyl, which is nylon sourced from discarded fishing nets.
A brand that is so outspoken about sustainability and willing to move with the times is sure to catch the attention of Enthusiastic Experts — especially if they are parents.
In a recent survey conducted by Impossible Foods, they found that 72% of Millennial and 65% of Gen X parents try to teach their children about environmental sustainability. Therefore, shopping at Boden is a great way for this audience to put their money where their mouth is.
2. The Inspired Innovator
The youngest of our sustainability audiences, Inspired Innovators are Gen Z and Millennials who come from urban and higher-education backgrounds. As a group, they prioritize innovation and forward-thinking policies.
Inspired Innovators are usually early adopters and are keen to try new ideas and products. On top of that, they’re the audience that tends to be the most proactive in seeking out sustainable brands and are willing to boycott brands that don’t fit this model.
They are somewhat vocal and knowledgeable about sustainability. However, the biggest difference that sets them apart from the Enthusiastic Experts is that they’re not in favor of higher taxes for unsustainable brands.
The best way for your brand to engage with Inspired Innovators? Prove to them that you’re at the forefront of sustainability. Thought-provoking messages alongside interesting products and innovative thinking will help to keep these young consumers on your side.
Follow their Lead: Lush
One such brand that has captured the hearts of Inspired Innovators is Lush. This beauty company is known for its quirky products, commitment to transparency, and exceptional environmental policies.
The brand is really pushing to capture the hearts of innovators by opening the very first plastic packaging-free beauty shop in Manchester. What’s more, Lush was able to innovate even in times of crisis.
When the COVID pandemic hit and most Lush stores were closed worldwide, the brand saw its customers switching to online shopping. Such an instant high demand in products would see other brands bring in the technology to mass-produce However, Lush stayed true to their morals and continued producing handmade products only — made possible by innovative tools that increased efficiency.
When it comes to who is leading the way in purchasing organic beauty products, Gen Z comes in first at 73%, followed closely by Millennials at 70%. As Inspired Innovators are mainly made up of these two generations, it makes sense that Lush’s policies and products would perform well with them.
3. The Considerate Conventionalist
Next, let’s take a look at the Considerate Conventionalists. This group is made up of slightly older consumers, usually aged 45-65 who live in more rural areas. As a group, this audience appreciates transparency, knowledge, and empowerment.
These are a fairly mainstream bunch of consumers, as their views on sustainability are more middle-of-the-road compared to the previous two audiences. Therefore, their view on sustainable brands is that they are important but slightly less so.
Considerate Conventionalists tend to be somewhat knowledgeable about brands that offer sustainable goods, although they aren’t as clued-up on the subject in more technical terms.
Despite that, they’re still open to paying more for products and services that are environmentally friendly. When it comes to boycotting and higher taxes for unsustainable brands, this group generally stands against both.
How to coax the Considerate Conventionalist over to your brand? You just need to highlight why the sustainable attributes of your products or services are important. Provide them with plenty of information and transparency to easily promote your brand to this mainstream group.
Follow their Lead: Bulb
Bulb, a UK green energy supplier, is tapping into the Considerate Conventionalist audience by providing information on sustainability in an accessible, easy-to-understand way.
This brand is aware that sustainable energy and utility companies are now moving into the mainstream in the UK. Furthermore, more consumers are aware of how these firms benefit both themselves and the environment.
In order to beat out the competition and attract this audience, Bulb is doing a good job promoting itself in simple terms — by telling consumers they’re simpler, cheaper, and greener than other energy brands.
Across the pond, sustainable energy is having a slightly harder time breaking into the mainstream. In a 2021 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, they found that only 8% of home realtors reported consumer interest in sustainability in the US.
Perhaps a brand like Bulb would do well to spread its message further abroad, educating US consumers on the importance of sustainable energy?
4. The Reserved Rationalist
Finally, we have the Reserved Rationalists. This audience is made up of consumers who are on the lookout for value for themselves. They’re slightly older — usually falling in the 35-44, 45-55, and 55-65 age ranges and often live in urban areas with medium to high education levels.
If there’s an audience you’ll struggle to convince about the positives of sustainability, it’s this one. Even though these consumers do believe that sustainable products are a good thing, they adhere to the idea much less than all the other audiences.
Laggards that are often unwilling to pay more for sustainable goods, Reserved Rationalists are neither knowledgeable nor vocal about sustainability.
As this group is not proactive in identifying sustainable brands, they aren’t aware which brands are actually acting sustainably. They also disagree with boycotting and higher taxes for companies that do not implement sustainable policies.
In order to appeal to the Reserved Rationalist, you’ll need to prove that your sustainable brand provides them with value. There’s not much point in trying to prove any positives of sustainability to them, as they’re likely to think that you’re selling them a fad.
To win them over, you need to show that sustainable products are value-driven.
Follow their Lead: Amazon
Based on a 2019 survey by First Insight, 53% of Gen Z, 45% of Millennials, and 42% of Gen X consumers in the US believe that Amazon shipments include excess packaging — which is quite damaging to the environment.
Even 36% of Baby Boomers, more likely to fall into the “Reserved Rationalist” category, agree — meaning US consumers were not pleased with the way Amazon was approaching sustainability in their packaging.
To combat this, Amazon has been making a real effort to win over some of their customers lately, like the Reserved Rationalists. How? Well, one tactic they have successfully tried out is honesty. Amazon acknowledged the part it played in damaging the environment and now claims it will work to rectify the damage as much as possible.
To achieve this, Amazon has a number of impressive policies in place: the brand purchased 100,000 electric delivery vans and hopes to be completely emission-free by 2030. Additionally, Amazon has vowed it will become even easier to buy sustainable products from the site.
As convenience is one of this brand’s top USPs, this move is sure to draw the attention of some previously lost customers.
Marketing isn’t just about attracting customers — it’s about attracting the right customers. This is true of any industry, including sustainability.
Remember, there isn’t just one sustainable audience out there — we’ve been able to identify at least four: Enthusiastic Experts, Inspired Innovators, Considerate Conventionalists, and Reserved Rationalists.
Depending on where your brand is right now in terms of sustainability perception, you need to make sure all your marketing engages with the right target audience.
Say you’re a newer brand that’s working to become more sustainable — try targeting the Considerate Conventionalists for now. When your policies are fully fledged and you feel confident in your brand’s sustainability, then you can go after the Enthusiastic Experts and Inspired Innovators.
Of course, the journey to sustainability is a long road ahead, but it’s a road that every brand is going to have to take one way or another. So, we recommend starting your journey sooner rather than later and focusing on the right sustainability audience for your brand. This way, you’ll be able to create the foundations of a long-lasting brand.
Updated by: Cory Schröder on 24.08.21