Marketing to the rescue of Conservation – Behavioural Science at Work!

I am inspired to write this piece after reading a blog by Richard Shotton answering the question whether behavioural science can make advertising more effective.

In one way or another, advertising is all what we do to get things done in almost all of our day-to-day actions. So, can there be some comparisons that can be made in looking at the links between behavioural sciences and advertising for better management of environment?

May be!

There are the following examples I wish to draw from the advertising industry and behavioural sciences and try to extrapolate these in dealing with better management of environment. Unashamed, I am using these from the above article but the interpretations and suggestions are mine!

  1. Learning from the Nespresso example!

We are all aware of the billion-dollar market Nestle created by marketing pods of premium coffee, Nespresso. Consumers willingness to pay changed dramatically when provided with choice of quality single servings. It is not about cost or choice but providing a competitive set of options to choose.

In the context of better environmental management, we need to do the Nespresso by providing premium option for engagement and worthiness of time and resources – that is not targeting the converted environmentalists but common public.

Can we offer a quality shopping experience to the public by providing with choice of environmentally friendly options that they find convenient and easy rather than just having a ‘feel good’ factor of merely using recyclable bags?

  1. The Jacob’s Mallows experience

Jacob’s Mallows marketing research team succeeded in making a windfall by simply shifting the product from being clubbed with biscuits to those of cakes. Shelving Jacob’s Mallows with biscuits made it look too expensive but when the product was shifted to cakes shelves, it appeared cheaper.

Environmental management options need to be provided using comparative options and choices. People should know the value of responsible action by intelligent comparisons that the environmental managers need to provide. Mere rolling out of options such as green economy options, biodiversity offsets and others may not work effectively. We need to make a compelling ‘shifting of shelves’ for the options to be used and promoted.

If a wetland has to be saved, it is not enough to say the value of the wetland but how the alternate choice of intervention can influence the decision maker to ensure protecting the wetland and adjusting the project could be the best option. The option has to be site specific than from some other country.

Price and cost relativity should be a key part of our argument.

  1. The more expensive advertisement, the better confidence of the advertiser

I was quite surprised to see the advertisements to curb illegal wildlife trade in Beijing Capital airport recently. It was not the message, not the sponsoring agency but the mere display and brand ambassadors used that caught the attention of passengers.

Several of the agencies, such as UN Environment, now has a number of brand ambassadors supporting and promoting the cause of environment. To a large extent, their engagement is limited to couple of posters and stand-up banners. We need to have better investments for advertising the options for better management of environment.

It is no surprise that IUCN – The World Conservation Union (IUCN) is an older, science-based organization celebrating 70 years of existence in 2018 but relatively little known than WWF. WWF was branch out from IUCN but is more globally known. The simple secret of WWF brand reach is because the people who were managing the IUCN outreach and financing programmes laid the foundations creating WWF.

It is time that environment management becomes a major part of market management, including advertisement.

See the effect of a simple advertisement that appeared in Indian media on how a brand variant of washing powder, ‘Surf’ saves litres of water caught public attention and market share increase. Mind you the message reach to public was not water conservation for environment but the lack of availability of water for daily chores at individual household level that made the advertisement click.

We need compelling, attractive, expensive and high-profile advertisements. Is this possible?

Yes, if we can convince the investors with behavioural changes such interventions can bring about.

  1. Admit Mistakes, Failures are not Bad!

We all know, in spite of all efforts, environment is getting bad to worse! All the investments are yet to give us impactful results. All of us are struggling to make the ‘big breakthrough’. But, we all want to be cautious about our messages of challenges and failures.

To a large extent the problem with environmental managers are that the manager sees ‘them,’ or ‘they’ as the cause of the problem and never ‘me’ and ‘us’.

This will not convince common man. The one knowing all answers to the problem cannot say they do not know the questions!

It is alright to admit to mistakes but ensure communicating the message is carefully done with a tone that says it is not an individual mistake but a collective one.

The more common man feels the guilt of their action, the better opportunity for their behavioural change.

But, for this, we have to be confident of the options and solutions that work.

Take the example of advertisement by the car rental company Avis -that was far behind in brand popularity to Hertz -that ran as “When you’re only number two you try harder. Or Else” made a yearly profit of $1.2 million more than in a decade and ran it for 50 years.

In environmental management, it is alright to make people feel guilty and failing but we need to spin the messaging in a manner they need to act now.

  1. Positive Social Proofing is Persuasive

In an interesting article published in Wall Street Journal, on turning consumers green, it was found that more response was to the sign that said neighbours are actively using the options to go green that had positive responses.

We need similar options to deal with environmental problem solving. Social proofing is a must.

In addition, it has to be understood that people get influenced and impacted by similar people. While it is fine to have global celebrities as brand ambassadors, we also need common people to effectively message. Common man connects with these people more easily.

I have a few more examples of approaches to discuss, that I will do in my next article.

Image source : Reputation today

1 thought on “Marketing to the rescue of Conservation – Behavioural Science at Work!”

  1. Absolutely relevant thoughts. Just like bridging the digital divide, we find an “academic divide” and “expert divide” in the field of environment, where the common man fears to tread in solving the problem. The focus should be in bridging the “Participation Divide” by the local community, and that is the only sustainable model.

    In HELP Foundation, in Wetlands Restoration, we have been experimenting on nudging the common people to participate in saving the environment. It’s a long road, but the right road. We continue to experiment on what can strike a chord with people who have money to support saving the wetlands.

    Good article. Thanks for the thoughts.

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