brand story & messaging

Sustainable brand attributes can be fair-weather friends

Carolyn McMaster | August 26, 2015

Despite a huge rise in the negative perception of the Amazon brand, people say they will still shop there, according to a YouGov BrandIndex survey.

It’s a cautionary marketing tale for brands that bank on customers’ do-good ethos to guide their purchasing decisions. In short, people mostly won’t follow through on their good intentions. Sustainable brand attributes are fair-weather friends; too many other factors determine how people spend their money.

As AdAge reported today, Amazon’s “Buzz” scored dropped 60 percent to an all-time low on Monday, following the publication of a scathing article in the New York Times that chronicled widespread workplace horror stories. However, 70 percent of survey respondents said they would make their next purchases from Amazon. That number was 72 percent prior to the story.

One factor in the gap between knowledge and action is Amazon’s overall brand perception, which was the highest of the 1,500 companies that YouGov BrandIndex tracked in 2013 and 2014.

But the situation is also a classic example of the “green gap,” which illustrates that most people (deep greens excepted) make purchases based on factors other than environmental or social justice benefits. They buy because it’s less expensive, more convenient, stylish—any of a host of factors that relate to their situation in the moment.

Ultimately, we want sustainability to be an integral, inseparable part of every brand story. But when marketing green products and services, we need to give people other reasons to buy—even as we make the sustainability attributes as sexy as possible.


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