I learned a precious lesson in the art of copywriting and marketing writing.

 “People do not buy without a why.”

                                    Jim Edwards

Traditional marketing is based on encouraging and promoting the continual expansion of satisfying our wants and needs, where resources are viewed as infinite. The five main reasons why people will buy a product or service are: to make money, to save money, to avoid effort, to save time, and to escape mental or physical pain. On the other hand, a sustainable focus suggests utilizing renewable resources through the concept of a circular economy. The fact that the capacity of both resources and the environment is limited needs and deserves respect. On the surface, traditional marketing and sustainability can be in contradiction to one another, but I am one of those marketers who believe that marketing and behavioural science have much to contribute in how we can influence consumers to be more sustainable.

Behavioural science has much to contribute in how we can influence consumers to be more sustainable.

Traditional market research draws conclusions based on observable quantitative trends, whereas behavioural science takes a different approach. Behavioural science uses principles and methods from psychology and other social sciences, connecting the dots between our thoughts and emotions and how they affect what we do and what we choose. There is much research to back this up. There is a considerable gap between what we say and what we do – behavioural science helps brands to put an emphasis on human insights, and what it makes it even more powerful is that it offers us ideas on how to act on these insights.

Insights of behavioural science to guide your sustainable marketing strategies

The following are four tips from the insights of behavioural science for your sustainable marketing strategies.

Tip 1: Making it Desirable

Social and cultural norms are one of the most influential factors in terms of affecting sustainable consumer behaviour change. Social norms or beliefs about what is socially appropriate can have a powerful influence on sustainable consumer behaviours. One study sheds some light on this. When community organizers themselves installed (vs did not install) solar panels on their homes (an action that reflects low norms), they were able to recruit 62.8% more residents into doing the same (Kraft-Todd et al. 2018).

Tip 2: Making it Easy

Most sustainable products or services are viewed as time-consuming, complicated, and expensive. One strategy used to encourage sustainable habit creation involves making the action more comfortable to do. For example, placing the recycling bins nearby and using a less complicated sorting system of recyclables, or offering a shower head with “low-flow” settings can encourage such sustainable behaviours.

Tip 3: Making it Relatable

We all know that when we force a child to do something, even if it is for their own good, it is often met with resistance. Getting people to adopt more sustainable habits is the same – force rarely meets with the path of least resistance. It is all about finding that intersection of the goal the consumer wants which is already in alignment with your brand’s goal. For example, if an environmental appeal does not resonate, then relating more to a personal desire (like visiting a clean beach in the summer) will get more traction.

Tip 4: Making it Contextual

To encourage sustainable behaviours, messaging can be given before behaviour to remind the consumer about the desired sustainable behaviour. Prompts, which are messages, to engage in sustainable behaviours work best when they are straightforward and easy to follow. They are best utilized in combination with other strategies.