Interdisciplinarity is the basis of environmental sciences. However, it seems that the marketing discipline is rather excluded from it. In fact, marketing content and environmental awareness might sound rather contradictory to many environmental scientists.
As scientists, we simply cannot deny the tension between environmental protection on the one hand and promoting consumption and growth on the other.
Why Content Marketing for Environmental Awareness can be useful?
Connecting these two disciplines appears to be useful for educating people about environmental degradation and climate change. Environmental sciences students and graduates see a huge benefit in familiarity with common marketing practices.
Linking marketing and environmental sciences can re-establish the way we perceive business. In this way business does no longer have to be seen as a source of environmental issues, but rather as a way to solve them.
Marketing is a powerful industry and its content can influence perceptions of the public. And messages to raise environmental awareness are powerful content because environmental issues affect people in their everyday-lives. That’s why people around the world can relate to them.
We see Netflix broadcasting Our Planet – educative, thought-provoking documentary about climate change. Or the increasingly popular topic of hungry polar bears making the headlines of newspapers. But also the car industry tackling plastic pollution. This kind of content is awaking a sense of urgency among consumers to act for change.
What is content marketing and why do you need it?
Whether you are applying for funding or promoting your organization, you want the world to know about what you do. You also want the world to know that you are good at what you do. And believe it or not, there are several marketing tools that can help you with that. One of them is content marketing.
Content marketing works in multiple online and offline forms and channels; a print booklet, an e-book, an online course or simply a blog. Through content marketing, businesses and organizations gain trust of their followers and establish authority within their fields by providing value to their audience.
With its 4 billion users worldwide, the internet offers a vast online space. If you use it in the right way, it makes reaching your audience easier. Yet not as easy as many of us would have initially thought.
You can share meaningful written stories or ‘how to-s’ on your blog or convince people to buy your newest product or service. You can also influence the public in their choices through social media, or give them access to valuable information on how to solve a problem. This all is content.
But good content marketing should not only show that you are an expert in a certain field alone. The content needs to become a source of valuable information, for which it will be worth coming back.
No matter if online or offline. Only then you start building up reputation and authority in your field yielding a higher return of investment. This puts you in a reputable position to further promote your ideas or offerings through, for instance, content marketing for environmental awareness.
Historical Examples of Content Marketing:
Let’s have a look at some examples. Content marketing doesn’t mean publishing content only for the online audience. Instead, it seeks creative and engaging ways to build up reputation by offering value to (potential) clients or customers. It has been around longer than the internet.
Johnson & Johnson
“Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment” was a publication that targeted doctors using J&J’s bandages in hospitals. There were 2 more publication in the late 1800s that followed and that offered more value to the medical community. J&J offered value to those that mattered to them most – their customers. In this way they tried to make sure that their customers remained loyal to their brand.
In the early 1900s the Michelin brothers built up their motor vehicle tire brand on providing guidance to motorists in France. They offered valuable content for motorists that helped them find good hotels and restaurants on their travels.
That’s how the Michelin brothers gained trust for and recognition of their brand among motorists. Besides the valuable guidebook, motorists also learnt where to get a new set of tires for their automobiles.
Why do we need content marketing for environmental awareness?
Although content marketing for environmental awareness is not yet a common a practice, it is gaining on momentum.
Many environmental organizations and green businesses engage in producing meaningful marketing content to raise awareness and educate the public about environmental issues. This is a clever practice as it portrays the context of the products or services they offer.
In addition to establishing strong online presence and authority, organizations and businesses that produce content to increase environmental awareness also educate their audience.
Marketing has the power to change public’s perceptions and make people act. In spite of environmental agencies warning us about “environmental challenges of unprecedented scale and urgency”, the focus of many marketing campaigns concerns sales promotion.
Content marketing for environmental awareness focuses on both; educating the public about environmental challenges and building a strong authority on the market. Marketing and education are powerful drivers of societal change. So, any missed chance of combining their powers is a missed chance to change the consumers’ behavior to the better.
Different forms of content nurture behavioral change from different stages of lives of the consumers. Volvo for example, speaks to children with the hope to change the perception of plastic pollution and encourage change. Patagonia supports environmental activist groups and promotes change through moderated consumption. It also tells personal stories of their partners from around the world to inspire change in their customers. Let’s take a closer look at these examples.
Examples of Content Marketing for Environmental Awareness
A good example of content marketing for environmental awareness is publishing a children’s book. This type of content targets those, who can still change the most in their life-times – the children.
To tackle the issue of plastic pollution, Volvo promises to use at least 25% of recycled plastic in the production of their cars by 2025. The company is also in the process of eliminating single use plastic from their offices.
Working towards using less plastic has sparked the idea of raising awareness and telling the world about the reasons. And that’s how the idea of a children’s book about the Oceans’ health was born.
“The Day the Ocean Went Away” tells the story of little Jack, who loves the ocean. But one day, he wakes up and the ocean has gone away. So, he sets off to the dry ocean floor for an investigation of what happened. It makes him sad to realize that the ocean had plenty of reasons to go away: a plastic bag-filled whale or a mermaid tangled in fishnets.
The story raises awareness about plastic pollution. But the need to talk about the disappearing ocean in the story has another sad reason. It stems from the fact that 1 in 5 UK children have never seen the sea. So the story does not only raise awareness about plastic pollution. It also raises awareness about the importance of the sea and the need to re-establish a connection between children and the ocean.
With this story Volvo provides something valuable to customers. At the same time the brand indirectly communicates its values. They are aware of the issues related to plastic pollution and they want to do something about it. People that care about the environment like that and maybe their next car will be a Volvo.
Supporting environmental activism and publishing stories about it is another way of publishing content marketing for environmental awareness. Patagonia gained on popularity because of its honest claims on how they repair the clothes of their customers instead of encouraging them to buy new ones. It is a unique approach that encourages consumers to reuse and recycle.
Patagonia’s content marketing for environmental awareness is a good example of how a company can accept responsibility and engage in raising awareness of issues linked to current societal and environmental issues.
In their documentary Public Trust, Patagonia raises awareness about “America’s 640 million acres of public lands”. These lands support biodiversity and carbon sequestration and are now under threat. The goal is to raise awareness about the threat that the US public lands face from extractive industries and politics of profit.
Patagonia shows how marketing and environmental awareness can go hand in hand. Quite exceptional that a brand promotes recycling instead of consuming. So the message is basically: Don’t buy it if you don’t need it, but if you need it buy it from us. We will make sure that it lasts…
What’s in Content Marketing for Environmental Awareness for You?
When it comes to environmental issues there is quite some societal pressure from the outside. One example are environmental activists: Extinction Rebellion for instance calls for change of consumption patterns. They call out the marketing industry and organizations to raise awareness of environmental issues for the general public. These days, ditching pure sell-sell messages that promote consumption might be an increasingly good idea.
Consumer and societal pressure on organizations to engage in pro-environmental activities is strengthening every year. In that context organizations that already engage in raising environmental awareness have an advantage.
With their content they educate their audience and provide higher value to their customers. By contrast, organizations, where the education about environmental issues comes from their customers have irreversibly missed out on an opportunity, which can harm their reputation.
Remember ‘Fridays for future’? Soon this will be the generation that grows up to become valuable labor in the job market. These people are young but convinced to support a good cause.
They skipped school on Fridays. Do you think they will want to work for an organization that doesn’t engage in raising environmental awareness?
Digitally savvy, these people already seek content that inspires change. Change of which they believe they are part of. If you can offer what they are looking for, you may gain trust with more generations to come.
Practice what you preach – What is Green-washing and why to avoid it?
But it is not just about educating your audience on how to act responsibly towards the environment. Getting caught on publishing content marketing for environmental awareness and then investing into ‘dirty practices’ can really discredit your authority.
Content for environmental awareness needs to be aligned to the practices an organization truly stands for. If the content creates certain expectations in consumers, organizations that do not live up to their expectations basically lie – they green-wash their consumers.
Although it would technically still be marketing content for environmental awareness, it would no longer be effective in creating trust with consumers or building authority in the field of expertise.
So not living up to your promise may cost you more than what you invested. Green-washing is lying and is not advised especially in times when more and more consumers demand honest communication. And also for moral reasons you just shouldn’t be dishonest with your potential clients and customers, yourself or anyone else.
Challenges of content marketing for environmental awareness
Although content marketing happens through various media, it is not always easy to know which one will work for you. Unless you follow the latest digital marketing trends, you will most likely have limited knowledge on how to make the most out of your content for environmental awareness.
Organizations need to proceed with care when raising environmental awareness to avoid their messages being misinterpreted. Choosing the right language and format can help in growing the right audience without giving it a feeling of inferiority.
Once an audience is established, relevant content needs to come regularly, which is time consuming and without the right skills may be a daunting experience.
You can overcome these challenges by collaborating with a marketing professional, whose background is close to the environmental sciences. Publishing content can then not only help your organization grow, but also generate value for your audience.
Moreover, with every piece of content that is carefully designed we may experience the public acting and fighting environmental challenges ahead of. So you and your brand or organization can become an active part in changing the world for the better.
Let’s Save the Planet with content marketing for environmental awareness!
Let’s be realistic, content marketing alone will not change the way we treat our planet. As a green business or an environmental organization you probably thought of ways this change can actually happen. But your good ideas need marketing plus they make a great content.
So yes, content marketing alone will not change the way we treat our planet – meaningful content and good ideas might. We just need to let the world know about them and educate people about reasons why it may be important.
Because if there is a way to influence how the future generations will deal with environmental challenges, it is exactly through education. And if done right, content marketing can become a part of education and in that way have a positive impact.
If we think of what tools we already use to influence consumer behavior, it would just be plain silly not to incorporate education and communicate science through these methods. We can influence consumer behavior already, so why don’t we do it in a responsible way.
We should think of it as bringing value not only to our customers, but also to other people that can benefit from it in the long run. After all they might become customers that are aware of the environmental challenges we face and act for change. I am convinced that education and marketing (if used in a clever way) are powerful drivers of this societal and environmental change.