Brands associated with eco-friendly and socially conscious ideals sell more product. It’s a fact.
So naturally the ad-world is awash with campaigns touting these sorts of claims at any given opportunity. Unfortunately, the integrity of their message usually falls somewhere on the truth spectrum in between ‘forgivable naiveté’ and ‘malicious gas lighting’, and can be generally found loitering near the ‘intentional misdirection’ mark.
In an article we published about sustainability minded advertising we explored the concept of ‘greenwashing’, which is, in a nutshell, companies lying through their teeth about the environmental impact of their products. So it’s only fair that we look at the other side of the coin too.
Without further ado, here are five creative marketing ideas for good that manage to lead by example and sell by association – walking the walk while talking the talk.
With less than 400 remaining in the wild, the Sumatran tiger faces a very real risk of going extinct. DDB New York and Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute teamed up with Indie rock legends Portugal. The Man to spread awareness by creating a song that will ‘go extinct’ unless reproduced, just like the Sumatran Tiger.
The previously unreleased song was pressed into 400 records that were designed to degrade after a certain number of plays. The records were then distributed to 400 participants including musicians, conservationists and bloggers, who were encouraged to digitize and share the song with the #EndangeredSong hashtag.
Virtually ‘breeding’ the song became a way to involve people in the plight of the Sumatran tiger by contagiously spreading the word and helping them visualize just how few 400 really is.
When infrastructure collapsed following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, trash became a serious issue. Plastic waste from bottled water and other aid supplies overwhelmed Haiti’s already weak waste collection systems and began piling up on street sides, beaches and in river ways, all eventually ending up in the ocean.
A coalition project was set up between HP, Thread, Work and Timberland to address not only the plastic waste issue, but the rising poverty rates too. The coalition, First Mile, created a closed-loop recycling process where locals are given the opportunity to make money by collecting plastic for recycling. The money created from the recycling project is then reinvested into the community, providing education, housing and medical care for those who need it.
With this initiative, First Mile and their collaborators have managed to kill multiple birds with the same stone, clearing up plastic waste and providing jobs and opportunities for impoverished communities across the country.
In 2007, cosmetics company Lush launched a body lotion called ‘Charity Pot’. The idea behind it was that 100% of the profits (minus tax) of the lotion line would go to grassroots organisations to help their causes. The profit from Charity Pot sponsors a huge variety of movements: environmental groups, refugee advocacy networks, LGBT liberation movements, gun responsibility associations and more.
Since its inception Charity Pot has raised over $26 million USD for charities and non-profits around the world, and at the same time has cemented Lush as a company that cares about more than just turning a profit.
Tiger are well known for their experiential marketing ideas, but in 2016 they decided to take it a step further. One of the biggest social and environmental problems in their home market, the Asia-Pacific region, is air pollution. The region is home to 1/3 of global annual air pollution related deaths, significantly more than anywhere else in the world.
To spread awareness of the issue, Tiger teamed up with an MIT off-shoot to create filters that fastened to the exhaust pipes of their delivery trucks. These filters clean the air from the trucks and convert it into ink, which they then made into pens and markers to distribute to local artists who used them to make art with the issue in mind.
A list of socially aware brand stratergies wouldn’t really be complete without a nod to the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. ‘Tin Shed Ventures’ is Patagonia’s corporate venture capital fund with a twist. Rather than your ordinary venture capital fund, which prioritizes short term growth and quick profit, Tin Shed focuses on long term environmental and social returns having equal precedence to profit.
Tin Shed sponsors innovative and responsible businesses that factor environmental and social sustainability at the forefront of their practices. In their words, the ultimate goal of Tin Shed Ventures is to prove that business and investments “can be engines for positive change.”