The Link Between COVID, BLM, Your Sustainable Brand and Ethical Consumption

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As we talk about ‘getting back to normal’ around the world, even as cases of COVID-19 spike in certain places, we can’t ignore this sense of a global enlightenment: we’ve endured economic hardships, faced health risks and losses, experienced social isolation, come together as a global community, and are battling our own inner demons with race and inequality. Although we are starting to ‘get back to normal’, trends have been set into motion, societal expectations are shifting, and the fabric of our economy is changing patterns. The stage has been set for a swell of ethical consumption. According to a study done in April by Accenture, “45% of consumers said they’re making more sustainable choices when shopping and will likely continue to do so.” People want transparency, clear messaging, and connection with brands more than ever, and are buying with the understanding that spending means a vote for values. This is a great time for ethical brands to stand out.

But navigating marketing efforts during these times can be slippery and operating with sensitivity in a changing global marketplace is a key concern. To be prepared to serve the growing consumer base, there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

1. Communicate your ethics

We’re in a time of societal change. The BLM movement and a focus on sustainability may seem unrelated. But they are driven by a broadening worldview and an understanding that individual actions have global and systemic impacts. The demand for societal change and more ethical consumption is on the rise. Consumers are expecting more. They are looking for responsible brands and paying attention to the values behind products and companies. Are you paying fair wages? Are you taking care of your employees during this time? Is your supply chain ethical? Are you reducing single-use packaging? Employing women and minorities?  Supporting local artisans, farmers, communities? If you are doing these things, now is the time to get that messaging out there. Sustainability reports, product messaging, ESG reporting, Ethics web pages, FAQs pages, optimized About pages, and packaging messaging are all important ways to communicate to your customers that you are considering and responding to the bigger picture. People want to know that their brands are standing on the right side of history. 

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2. Produce insightful, informative content

Right now, more than ever, you have a captive audience. Most people are still avoiding large gatherings, spending more time at home, and operating at a slower pace. And they are still online. A LOT. (Forbes reported at the beginning of social distancing that internet use was up 70%).  So now is the time to create interesting, thoughtful content for your audience. Take this time to grow your following and spread the message of sustainability first. Earn trust through the production of meaningful, quality content, like your social media posts, blogs and articles. Focus on engaging with your audience by opening up the conversation about sustainability and ethical business practices. Think conversation over sales messaging.

3. Take another look at your audience

Now might be a good time to reevaluate who you are speaking to with your messaging. Are you reaching those that are new to the conversation and are looking for responsible replacements for their traditional purchases? Does it make sense to tailor your messaging to that growing crowd? Keep in mind that jargon doesn’t work well with customers. Take the opportunity to explain.

4. Enhance your e-commerce opportunities

It’s no surprise that e-commerce is picking up. Make sure your website is designed to make the process from browsing to checkout as seamless as possible for your customers. Make it easy to find the products they want. Don’t give them any reason to abandon their cart, such as asking for information you don’t need, offering too many add-ons or slow loading webpages. Consider perks such as free shipping. Once a customer buys from you online, it is easier for them to do it again. So, make it a breeze for them the first time, and be sure the logistics behind their order keeps it moving and gets it into their hands quick.

5.  Offer BOPIS (Buying Online, Pickup in Store)

If you have e-commerce capabilities and are adjusting properly to the pandemic’s new needs, blending online checkouts with local pickup in your store is a natural adaptation technique.  In May, BOPIS increased 554%, according to Digital Commerce 360. If this would work for your brand, it is a huge opportunity you don’t want to miss. 

6. Differentiate from ‘Big Brands’

As always, despite the growth in awareness and interest in ethical consumption, you still need to compete with major brands. Listen to what consumers are dissatisfied with from big brands- if you can do better, make this part of your messaging platform. As much as possible, meet the big brands head on when it comes to convenience, affordability, and accessibility. And where you can’t, use your ethical messaging to demonstrate your unique selling points.

7. Build a sense of trust

People are suspicious and untrusting right now. The right messaging for your brand is important to build confidence, trust, and relationships with your audience. It’s a great time to look beyond your products and stand for something bigger. People are looking for warm fuzzies in the public sphere and are disenchanted with blatant sales pitches. Instead, employ subtle, sensitive, ethical messaging. Let your customers know you are considering their well-being and the realities of their concerns in your manufacturing, sourcing, development, product selection and shipping processes. Relate these decisions to your audience and global well-being and the current state of the world. You’re the brand creating the world they want to live in. You’re the brand they can trust. Let them know that.

If you want to ensure you are taking the right steps for your business and your customers during this time, consider these steps above. There is a synergy between ethical businesses and consumers, now more than ever. Our global community is looking for better; let’s tip the scales in favor of a more sustainable future through ethical consumption! 

Need help crafting messaging?

Holly Prievo, author of The Guilty Granola, is a copy and content writer for sustainable and ethical brands.  The success of your sustainable brand is the goal, achieved through improved visibility and competitiveness. She focuses on product messaging, sustainability pages, blogs, social media content, website content diagnostics, web page optimization and brand messaging.

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