The case for sustainable marketing in a circular economy

Shannon Fitzpatrick
By Shannon Fitzpatrick | 9 July 2021
Shannon Fitzpatrick

Shannon Fitzpatrick, director of advertising, Gumtree Australia

There’s no doubt that sustainability is important to Australians, and as consumers we are increasingly making purchase decisions based on brands’ environmental views and actions.

According to the 2021 Gumtree Trading in the Circular Economy Report, 81% of Australians are already changing the way they consume goods to be more environmentally friendly now compared to 10 years ago. In fact, more than 4 in 5 say sustainable practices inform their purchase decisions when buying brand new. This shift in consumer behaviour presents an opportunity for brands to also think about how they can become more sustainable.

From a marketing perspective, brands focus on the customer journey and the various points in time that they should communicate with their customers. Sustainability makes it possible to reach them not just at the point of discovery or purchase, but throughout the lifecycle of a product and its environmental footprint.

The sweet spot between customer lifecycle and product lifecycle

The brands leading the way in sustainability are those that are already considering the full lifecycle of their products. For example, when Volvo announced its plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 2026 by building cars using steel made without fossil fuels, the company said it saw environmental sustainability as a key part of its attraction to buyers.

IKEA, on the other hand, is targeting customers when products reach the end of their lifecycle. Through its Buy Back program, the Swedish company buys its own used furniture to resell it, extending the product’s lifespan and avoiding it ending up in landfill.

Brands that put sustainability at the heart of their business and marketing strategies are able to reach consumers throughout both their customer journey and their product lifecycle — translating into more touchpoints and a longer brand-customer relationship.

Opportunities in the circular economy

As consumers are becoming increasingly mindful of their environmental footprint, they are also moving away from a using-and-disposing model. Instead, they are opting for a circular economy. In the past 12 months, 86% of Australians have saved pre-loved items from going into landfill by selling them in the circular economy. This shift could see the value of circular trading in Australia to be over approximately $48 billion — up 89% since 2011.

Brands that are sustainable but haven’t tapped into the circular economy are missing out on the opportunity to engage with their customers in this space. For example, more than 2 in 3 sellers on Gumtree are using the funds from the sale of their pre-loved goods to buy something new, while 9 in 10 look to upgrade the item they are selling with a new one. This shows businesses have the chance to talk to consumers throughout various points of their life — when they move out of home, get married, have a family, upsize their home or car.

The case for sustainable marketing

A brand’s relationship with its customers can be for a lifetime. When a brand thinks and acts in a sustainable way, it can have a conversation with its customers that is a lot longer than just at that entry or discovery point.

Sustainable marketing is about longevity and switching from short-term goals to long-term success. It occurs when a company aligns its marketing strategy with its sustainability targets. But most importantly, it is not just for marketers, it is an opportunity for businesses to act in a way that is meaningful to consumers, the planet and their whole organisation.

Brands need to listen to what is important to Australians and help the community where they operate — this includes helping the environment. Sustainability needs to matter to the business itself and what it stands for — its own purpose and the role it plays in customers’ lives and in the world we live in.


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