For marketers who want to keep up with the times, or for 'green' companies who want to promote themselves, it is useful to have an overview of digital marketing in the circular economy. The reason for this is simple: the circular economy (or green economy) is the economic and social growth model of the future, based on sustainable business conduct.
The basics of digital marketing in the green economy are understanding what it is and knowing the characteristics of its products/services; having notions of "green marketing" to know what to pay attention to and what to leverage when communicating to promote a circular product.
The following article explains what the objectives of digital marketing in the circular economy are, why it is important to communicate a company's commitment to the environment and how to do it. Finally, a brief overview of the web and social media marketing tools to consider in your strategy.
What is circular economy?
To explain what the circular economy is, it is useful to start from the current 'linear' model of the economy, which originated with the industrial revolution. It is represented by a horizontal line and is based on the model of production-consumption-disposal of goods.
A product is created from virgin resources, used, and once it reaches the end of its life it is disposed of as waste. This system is no longer sustainable for the planet because of the environmental damage it creates, and its days are numbered because it depends on the exploitation of depleting non-renewable resources.
The circular economy model was theorised as an alternative to the linear model back in the 1960s. It is represented by a circle that keeps resources within it for as long as possible, where waste is transformed into a resource.
The circular economy is based on the model of production-consumption-recycling/reuse. At the end of a product's life cycle, its materials are reused to create other goods. The circular model (or sustainable practices) can be adopted by companies in any sector.
Benefits and costs of the circular economy
Companies will find it increasingly advantageous to be part of the circular economy as a matter of image and cost savings, not to mention the fact that laws and incentives encourage the transition to a circular economy (see the EU Circular Economy Package).
Nevertheless, green economy products/services often cost more than others. The reasons for this are the way they are designed, the cost of the technology used (which requires investment in research and development); and because it costs more to operate in an environmentally and socially friendly way than not to. A good digital green marketing strategy is crucial to communicate the value of the product and make it prefer a cheaper, but less ethical one.
Communication objectives in green marketing
Green marketing is the branch of marketing that communicates sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
(Digital) marketing in the circular economy is much more than advertising sustainable products.
On one hand, it informs and educates people about environmental issues. On the other hand, it inspires and motivates consumers to change their purchasing habits to take advantage of circular products/services, such as returning, renting, reusing, sharing, or buying a used or reconditioned good.
These actions often imply a higher expenditure of energy or money by the consumer. Opting for returnable packaging implies more effort than disposable packaging. For some, buying a used good or sharing it with others might be an obstacle, as well as the higher average price of circular goods.
Digital marketing in the circular economy, with the right content and the right way of communicating, must push consumers to overcome habits, blocks, fears and preconceptions towards such products/services. Green marketing is about making circular products/services attractive and desirable, integrating them into everyday life and freeing them from the aura of inconvenience and sacrifice.
In the words of Jocelyn Blériot, executive officer of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, "the obvious economic benefits of the circular economy are not sufficient on their own to trigger the transition from the traditional linear model to the circular model".
Goals of digital marketing in the circular economy
The primary objective of digital marketing, also in the circular economy, is to generate profit. With this in mind, the actions of digital marketing in the green economy are aimed at:
educate on sustainability. It creates content to inform and engage consumers; it encourages them to adopt sustainable behaviour; it lays the foundations to convert even those who are not interested in sustainability into customers.
An example of this could be putting advice on your website on how to be more sustainable, or using social media to challenge your community to adopt a green habit.
· Build brand awareness. This encompasses all activities to create brand awareness and inform about the existence of the brand. The aim is to massively showcase the brand and ensure it is remembered. Online and display advertising are widely used to create brand awareness. Awareness is also created, above all, by talking about yourself and your work. This can be achieved through Digital PR, creating relationships and networking with other environmental companies, environmental journalists, eco-bloggers and green influencers, so that they talk about the company on their websites, blogs and social media.
· Improve the brand image (brand reputation) and communicate corporate social responsibility (this is known as Corporate Social Responsibility Marketing). What does this mean? It means showing the company's concrete commitment to the environment, highlighting its eco-sustainable practices, demonstrating that it has espoused the environmental cause. Why is it important? Because it brings a strong return in economic terms. The more a company is seen as virtuous and a promoter of sustainable development, the more it is rewarded by consumer’s sensitive to environmental and social issues. And, at a time when environmental activism is on the rise, more and more companies are going green.
How to do digital marketing in the circular economy
Every marketing strategy starts with identifying the target audience. After sketching the buyer persona (age, gender, interests, where to find them, etc.) the content and channels to be used are defined.
Intercepting the target
Target audiences interested in sustainability should be intercepted when they perform a search on search engines (direct demand); but also when they are not searching (latent demand).
Intercepting direct demand on the web requires a well-positioned website on search engines through SEO, or paid advertising (search advertising, such as Google Ads).
For latent demand, web and social advertising can be used, thanks to their strong targeting capabilities.
Social media marketing for the circular economy
A good social media presence is also necessary. Each platform is better suited to certain content or formats.
On Instagram, a visual inspiration social media platform, it is important to post well-curated photos with a consistent style. An Instagram marketing strategy should also include stories, which are the best way of creating engagement and relationships with the audience.
Facebook is interesting for creating communities through public or private Facebook groups. For a circular company, it is useful to be part of a themed group such as 'Environmental sustainability and green economy', where you can share content, or create one to have your own community.
Linkedin & Twitter could be useful for companies, especially if they want to build a certain image among professionals. It is widely used by companies.
A YouTube channel where you can upload professional videos is important in a video marketing strategy.
The impact of digital technology on the circular economy has been very strong: it has enabled the development of the new technologies that underpin it and the widespread dissemination of information.
Digital marketing in the circular economy has the particularity of being able to convert consumers of a product/service into "supporters" of the circular model, making the consumer adopt new habits and a new mentality. Investing in sustainable action by companies is necessary, and marketing is the best way to highlight this.