Why choose an environmentally friendly promotional item


Examining the marketing thinking behind environmental messaging



One the most significant trends in the world of Promotional Products is the demand for items which are environmentally friendly. But, environmentally friendly products made from recycled materials or biodegradable materials tend to be more expensive than plastic based products. So why spend the extra money? What do you get in return? This is not a glib question and needs to be answered by each brand, so that you gain from the additional expenditure rather than merely jump on a trend.

1. Because you are a ‘green’ brand

Some brands are entirely focused on their environmental position. Lush Cosmetics, for example, are natural products with an eco-friendly ethos running through the whole company. From the product, the packaging, to the store lighting and the charities they support. For them, any promotional item have to be made from recycled materials from leaflets printed on recycled paper to gifts. To use anything else would be an anathema.
For some companies it is not really the additional expense of environmentally sound promotional goods but rather there is no alternative. But, you do not have to be in this position because…


2. Because you have an environmental message as well

We work with a number of brands who you would not class as ‘eco’ companies who nonetheless have a message about their Social Responsibility. Energy clients are a good example. Drax Power is known across the UK for its large scale coal fired power stations. The power stations emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide and so that puts Drax in the firing line for the environmental lobby.  But Drax has been changing to removing coal from its power stations and investing in renewables. Their issue is that their customers and potential customers do not know of their changes their issue is getting that message out.
Drax is an example of a company which has a message to communicate – one which unlike Lush is not immediately obvious. Hence, it is more important that literature and promotional items push that message out to clients, consumers and government.


3. Because we need no more plastic in the world

Other businesses may not have a particular environmental message but they do not want to be seen as adding to the problem. For them it is not a particular message that needs to be sent but rather part of a wider Social Responsibility. Not trying to look like eco-warriors but not looking to add to the problem either.
The rationale here may be more subtle – the message may be that you care for the environment, society or feel a level of social responsibility. Whilst the promotional item is important it must fit within a wider marketing and communications package. Their needs to be a consistency across all 
forms of communication.

4. Greenwash

“I have heard there are lots of customers to be won by saying you are environmentally conscious. Not sure what it all means but if I can win more business then why not?”
 Clearly the last statement was somewhat tongue in cheek but not massively. We have been asked by plastic polymer manufacturer for cotton carrier bags and have in the past been asked by a well-known burger chain for sporting products. Beware, your consumer is not stupid. There needs to be alignment. This applies to all aspects of marketing and messaging but for some reason gets lost when discussing promotional products.


5. ROI

So if investing in environmental promotional products is more expensive can there be a more quantitative justification than the arguments above. Measurement appears to be difficult although regional A/B testing may be possible on a regional basis of your spend is large enough. We also know of a company who presented two promotional gifts at an exhibition to test responses. But this is not digital marketing with masses of data. Whilst the evidence may be deemed little more than anecdotal a glance at your social media feeds will indicate the feelings of your clients if you get this wrong.

Author: David Platt Director of Pavilion Group a promotional goods distributor, including environmental products at www.pavilionearth.co.uk

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