Sustainly, founded by our 2015 conference keynote speaker Matthew Yeomans, covers the intersection of sustainability and communication. Its recent ‘Big Brand Report’ looks at how 175 brands use Facebook to communicate sustainability.
We cut the report down to the five most critical points that will help your brand be a better communicator on Facebook.
1. Focus on the most talked about sustainability issues
Brands feel comfortable talking about and taking ownership of health and wellness, charity and support for foundations. However brands like Always, Dove and Aveeno have made issues like self-esteem a core element of brand marketing.
That said, the graph below shows that the third most communicated sustainability issue in 2015 was sustainable sourcing. This was partly driven by Mars Inc and Unilever brands who informed the public about sustainable tea, coffee and cocoa initiatives. While issues such as climate change and clean energy are shied away from, US brands have taken a stand in favour of equal gender rights and aligned themselves with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
2. Don’t shy away from the tough issues
Activists and consumers alike aren’t afraid to ask brands hard questions about their sustainability. While it’s been 10 years since the first brand used marketing on Facebook, a lot of them are still treating it like a one-way street and not addressing the concerns of consumers or leaving them with generic ‘please contact customer services’ messages.
It’s critically important that in the social media arena brands know how to deal with those kinds of questions. The best brands respond with definitive answers, facts and examples that will lead to reassuring the majority of their audience.
When brands do succeed it’s because they don’t shy away from the tough issues. These brands raise those issues in a way captures people’s attention. Check out Pepsi, McDonald’s and Snickers below and the Sustainly list of the 10 Best Brands here.
3. Should you even use Facebook?
Sustainly looked at 175 brands owned by 15 major companies and a whopping 109 of those brands don’t use Facebook to talk about sustainability with their audience. This means those brands are effectively posting the marketing equivalent of cat pictures – nonsensical images that may generate likes but are used as a distraction from major issues, such as sustainability.
4. Sustainability only sells if you sell it
According to The Big Brand Report only one fifth of the buying public in the United States will buy sustainably for the reason that something is sustainable – most people buy on price, performance and reliability. Part of the reason for this (despite businesses becoming increasingly sustainable in procurement and business practices) is because sustainability initiatives aren’t often enough shared in ways that connect with and engage the consumer (see the full report for further information here).
There are brands that have successfully talked about sustainability on Facebook and there are brands that haven’t been so successful. While you can learn from both the key message is that average consumers – once made aware of sustainability issues – start asking questions: ‘isn’t the price we pay for products a question of sustainability?’ ‘How can the farmers we depend on make a living when the supermarket prices are so low?’ ‘Are ingredients like corn sugar and salt used in low cost food sustaining us or making us ill?’ The same core questions can be asked of the detergents, soaps, clothes and cars and services we depend on.
These questions are getting asked and changes are slowly happening. Consumers voting with their wallets have already prompted fast food companies to change their menus, are forcing food producers to take a stand on genetically modified crops and are pushing household and personal goods manufacturers to use non-toxic components.
5. Pretending that there’s only happiness in the world isn’t a good thing
While brands like to keep their Facebook pages light and happy (and we’re not saying they shouldn’t), it doesn’t mean that not answering consumer queries to maintain that light and fluffy impression is a good move. Facebook doesn’t just let your brand reach people, it lets people reach your brand and ignoring them will only infuriate them.
Matthew Yeomans was a key note speaker at SBN’s 2015 conference Project NZ: Telling Good Stories. You can watch his talk here.
Images sourced from ‘The Big Brand Report 2015’, Sustainly.