Why sustainability’s emotional narrative is key to bringing businesses and customers closer
More and more companies seem to recognise long term success and a strong brand reputation is not about just selling products. Consumer purchasing behaviour and brand preference decisions are shifting. They want something more from brands other than names and logos.
Businesses today and in the future need to forge close emotional ties with customers and stakeholders. It’s those companies who can connect with their customers’ emotionally that are more likely to keep them for the long-term. As Michele McGovern highlighted in her insightful article on customerinsightesperience.com, ‘Customers who are “emotionally connected” to a product buy more, are more profitable and are more loyal than customers who are “highly satisfied,” Harvard Business Review researchers (have) found. Yet, most companies spend time and resources measuring satisfaction and trying to improve transaction details, rather than focus on deepening relationships.’ We couldn’t agree more.
Consequently that’s why a company’s sustainability efforts, regardless of their size or sector, are one of the most significant ways to make that emotional link with customers and stakeholders.
Ultimately, humans are emotional. We are driven by how we feel. We behave and respond using habits and we are influenced by people around us. Now we are in no way saying that great communications no longer serve a purpose. Strong and effective communications is rooted in rational, practical thinking, but consumer psychologist Peter Noel Murray, Ph.D. says, it also needs to trigger an emotional response in people to create engagement.
And this is precisely where sustainability comes into its own.
Reaching people’s emotions
Sustainability addresses a range of sensitive, complex and serious issues ranging from climate change and biodiversity loss, to ethical supply chains, gender inequality and modern slavery. Given this, a formal and serious narrative is vital for the precise communication of such concerns.
However, use an overly serious language when communicating with consumers could potentially cause confusion or misunderstanding, and maybe even risk turning some people away entirely. I am concerned that the removal of emotion could even result in no response whatsoever.
If you read the news recently, you will know that luxury business LVMH ‘requires each of its renowned maisons to spend €15 for every ton of carbon emissions (either on-site or from grid-based electricity) on efficiency and energy reduction, clean energy, or research to understand that brand’s greenhouse gas emissions better’. ‘By the end of this year 100% of the electricity for LVMH facilities in France will be renewable.
This is positive news, I’m sure you will agree. But it’s an especially powerful message for LVMH customers in Asia and South East Asia in particular, a key market for the company.
For example, according to research from the Carbon Trust, 83% of young people in China said they would be more loyal to a brand if they could see it was reducing its carbon footprint. What’s more, 88% of 18-25 year olds surveyed in China wanted their favourite brands to help reduce their carbon footprint. And 60% of Chinese young adults who participated in the research say they would stop buying a product if its manufacturer refused to commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint.
Thus it would appear that South East Asian consumers, and in particular the Millennials, are re-defining the consumer journey for luxury, and sustainably features high on their ‘must have’ list.
Could this and other similar market information have played a part in in the LVMH carbon emission plans? After all, being armed with knowledge of its customers’ “emotional motivators” would proffer them with a unique insight into a customers’ future worth more than any other metric, including brand awareness and customer satisfaction, and can be an important new source of growth and profitability.
After all, the Millennials now have stronger connections with brands that promote sustainability in addition to CSR. The combination of both encourages companies to implement viable business practices throughout their entire infrastructure. That includes suppliers, consumers, employees and other third parties.
For many people, living a truly sustainable life, whilst desired, has yet to be fully reached. Therefore consumers seem to want their favourite and preferred brands to show them how their products can help them in their efforts. Is this perhaps what LVMH has in mind with its efforts? They certainly appear to be tapping into people’s growing emotional interest and preference for brands to be sustainable. Let’s see how this develops.
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