Throughout the lockdown, I was inspired by the calls for a renewal, not just a reset of New Zealand's economy from leading New Zealand entrepreneurs and commentators.
This week sees these views come together in a week-long online forum - Visionweek NZ. Those same leaders, and many others, are discussing what kind of New Zealand we should create going forward. And critically, how we can get there.
However, these calls for change must compete with the economic reality the country faces. It's all well and good to call for a 'new normal', but many New Zealanders would happily settle for the old normal they had at the start of the year. Full pay, a job, no restructures or redundancies.
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I recall the momentum of the first green marketing revolution back in the 2000s. Sustainability was the talk of business. John Grant published his excellent 'Green Marketing Manifesto' that outlined his authentic blueprint for creating and marketing sustainable businesses.
Things were going to change. They'd never be the same again.
The advent of the GFC saw those ideas take a significant step backwards, replaced by bailouts and stimulus-packages. Consumers reduced spend and shopped on price. Jill Caldwell, a leading New Zealand researcher, dubbed it the 'Time of the Hunter'.
It's naïve to believe that patterns and preferences won't follow the same path as past recessions. From our latest quantitative research at Dentsu NZ, New Zealanders are telling us they will reduce expenditure in key categories. Those receiving refunds from travel are likely to save and pay down debt. We are being forced once again to value hunt in today's economic depression. Making sustainable purchase choices won't come as easily for many.
So how can sustainability survive amidst an economic meltdown?
It's critical to adapt your proposition and execution. Simply sticking with an approach that was geared for the more open minds and wallets before the crisis will dent your growth. Here are five ways to ensure you market your sustainable product or service as effectively as possible:
1. Your buyer isn't who you think it is
Now's an ideal time to appeal to different value pools and buyer groups in the market. For many years we've been told about the millennials and Gen-Z'ers - a new generation of consumers with different values and digital-first behaviours. Right now though, it's more likely to be much older New Zealanders who are better insulated against the downturn with more cash and less debt. Rather than ignoring them, find fresh insights about them that could motivate consideration and purchase.
2. What you're selling isn't always what people are buying
In research, no-one disagrees that we should all do more to address climate change and help the planet. But our actual purchase behaviour is much more complicated. Research shows that our decisions are driven by emotion and the need to meet fundamental needs. By misjudging these, you again risk growth.
Our client Subaru has just launched its e-Boxer hybrid range. Subaru wasn't the first to market with this kind of car. The brand chose to promote its hybrid by reinforcing the capability of its cars in New Zealand's demanding driving conditions. e-Boxer technology further complements the All-Wheel Drive capability customers have always valued in a Subaru. Now with an e-Boxer hybrid version models you can cut your urban emissions by up to 19 per cent too.
3. For many, sustainable means pricey
Sustainable products and services are often perceived as being that bit more expensive. This leaves you vulnerable as consumers trading down on yesterday's luxuries or price points.
You need to know how to justify that elevated price point or to reframe it in ways that enable a buyer to purchase? Price is always judged relative to other offerings. Designing price in the context of your range and the competition matters more than ever. To return to the e-Boxer hybrid example, Subaru ensured the price differential was only NZ$5,000 versus the standard models making the price walk more acceptable to shoppers.
4. Empathise, don't preach
At the moment we're trying to reconcile our ideals to our needs, our desires to our budgets. As consumers our behavior is erratic and contradictory (even though we think it isn't). We may eschew plastic packaging during the weekly shop yet drive to the supermarket in our petrol-fuelled car.
You'd do well to empathise more explicitly with these trade-offs, rather than pretending they don't exist. Many of us are trying to do our bit. So showing how it's easy to do this with your product will give consumers a win. No-one wants a lecture from an eco-warrior.
5. Show brand leadership
On the first morning of Visionweek NZ, Sir Stephen Tindall reminded the audience that more and more global corporations and investors are looking to make sustainable investments and that New Zealand has the opportunity to position itself as one of these. Find ways to lead in your category by sharing your vision and what you're doing about it.
Over the past few months, Meridian Energy, another of our clients, has increased its efforts behind an ambitious marketing programme as New Zealand's largest 100% renewable power generator.
Launched last year, this programme is flexing to adapt to changing consumer mindsets and behaviours, but the brand remains determined 'to skate to where the puck is going', not where it's been.
As the economy struggles through recession, it's critical to recognise that just having a sustainable product or technology may not be enough keep you on the shopping list or in consideration.
There's a time to fight for doing the right thing. That time is now.
- Murray Streets is the chief executive of BC&F Dentsu.