Sudashini Christopher highlights the immense value of sustainable marketing

Compiled by Randheer Mallawaarachchi

Q: What is your take of the role of sustainable marketing in the modern age?

A: Businesses look to make an impact and change the world at any given opportunity. This endeavour requires influencing consumer behaviour, which in turn creates an ecosystem that enables businesses to thrive.

Among the intense competition faced in the market, each brand aims to create a unique identity to ensure it stays ahead of the curve. Different terms such as societal, consumer value, cause, green or ethical marketing refer to the same principles of sustainable marketing.

Regardless of interpretation, the concept is built around the creation of a critical balance between consumer demand, company profitability and social interest.

It is complemented by the development of responsible products and solutions that are integrated with credible marketing communication practices.

Q: Could you outline the importance of this concept in addressing negative perceptions associated with the marketing profession?

A: The stigma of misleading and manipulative information is generally attached to marketing efforts because some marketers resort to shortcuts to make quick sales rather than considering long-term sustainability.

Sustainable marketing seeks to remove that stigma by avoiding such greenwashing practices, and adapting to production and sales with responsibility, as well as creating value added products and solutions for consumers.

It also creates awareness regarding responsible consumption and promotes equitable marketing, which contributes to environmental, social and financial wellbeing.

Q: Are marketers embracing sustainable marketing in today’s landscape?

A: In the light of recent changes in climate and environmental conditions, it’s prudent to remain agile and creative while optimising the use of available economic and human resources, and simultaneously generate mutual benefits.

Empowered with an ‘everyone must do their part’ attitude, brands are now more open to working to achieve shared goals. Rather than thriving on their individual merits, they are keen to create a competitive advantage for all stakeholders.

Q: How has the marketing profession been impacted by COVID-19 – and what measures can marketers take to ensure their campaigns are effective?

A: Traffic for virtual stores has skyrocketed over the past few months with the integration of AI and chatbot solutions.

This has made marketing more data driven through customer relationship management (CRM) tools, dedicated promotions, and rewards and loyalty programmes; and it has given rise to ample opportunities for increased footfall and revenue.

Today’s brand owners remain visible and close to their customers. Enhancing customer engagement further, brand image is managed by the owners themselves without merely delegating it to an invisible and impersonal team. Transparency should be ensured by providing easy access to brands’ intricate financial details.

Meanwhile, with digital inclusion, the benchmarking of competition has expanded globally.

Q: What is your interpretation of strong brand positioning?

A: Every brand has a purpose that dictates the inherent promise it has to live up to.

Necessary changes in strategies need to be made by brands to coincide with the changing dynamics of the market and environmental conditions, while remaining transparent and credible. This enables brands to earn a good reputation and build strong positions in their markets.

Everyone has their own association with brands – either perceived or through personal experience. Consequently, people may form biased opinions based on their relationships with brands or the buzz in the market, which will result in shaping the narrative of those brands.

Crisis aversion measures adapted by brands run the risk of being heavily scrutinised. They must practise caution, and owners should carefully construct proactive and reactive activities – activities that are aligned to their brand value propositions and preserve their reputation.

Q: So how can marketers look to build brand equity?

A: A strong brand and reputation blueprint, road map and communications plan are needed to build brand equity. Brands can have the flexibility to change course but their purpose and destinations must remain consistent to prevent ambiguity. However, the scope of the purpose can be expanded with the achievement of milestones.

Achieving success through performance marketing enables the optimisation of market investments, and conveys the right narrative and brand story. Brand equity metrics that have been established should reflect performance in terms of customer acquisition and retention, and revenue generation.

Q: What must brands consider when undertaking sustainable marketing?

A: While the relevance of sustainable marketing surges daily, comprehension regarding its application is yet to be achieved. Brands should adopt objective thinking patterns before pledging to achieve sustainable goals so that an intellectual and emotional bond can be fostered with consumers rather than limiting interactions to financial transactions only.

The interviewee is the Founder and Managing Director of Mavenit Consulting – she is also a consultant on sustainability and reputation