Instinct — the marketing success factor for sustainable companies

So why is selling green and sustainable products and services that make a difference so difficult?

Instinct: marketing strategies for sustainable companies

We at Greenblut have been working for many years with sustainably oriented entrepreneurs who put a great deal of passion, strength and commitment into developing and expanding their brands or services. Although the framework conditions for sustainable business concepts are seemingly optimal, we encounter the same problem over and over again:

More and more consumers are looking for green and sustainable alternatives to conventional products. Various studies show that almost 90% of all consumers in industrialized countries would like to buy fair and sustainable products and services. That's actually great news, if it wasn't for the contradiction that in practice, many consumers give priority to the conventional range of goods, even though comparable, sustainable products or services are better in many ways.

So why is selling green and sustainable products and services that make a difference so difficult?

Read the introduction to a marketing concept that is particularly relevant for sustainable companies below.

Let us dive into Daniel Kahnemann's world of research on the topic of “Economics & Behavior.” Daniel Kahnemann is one of the leading researchers and scientists in the field of behavioral economics. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on the topic of “Judgments and Decisions.” His empirical results challenge some fundamental assumptions about human rationality, as discussed in many modern economic theories. In his famous book “Thinking Slow and Fast” (thinking fast, slow) Kahneman 2 describes systems that our brain uses to make decisions. We will examine these two consumer decision-making systems below in the area of tension between “slow” and “fast.”

Fast und Slow deutsch

How we make decisions:

At first glance, making decisions seems easy. Most people would agree that the decision-making process works like this:

  • We try to get as much information as possible
  • We match the information with our preferences
  • We weigh up the options very carefully

Based on this, we make the best possible decision. This model easily leads to the assumption that all you have to do is produce a comparatively better product, present its positive qualities well and you will win the competition with your competitors. It's not that easy! Dr. Kahnemann was able to prove that our decision-making processes rarely follow this described and very complex principle. The reason is simple: We have to make thousands of small decisions every day. When you get up in the morning, it starts:

  • Should I jump out of bed right away or should I activate the “snooze” function?
  • Which socks do I wear?
  • What do I eat for breakfast?

Countless decisions of this kind are made by us every day. If we had to think intensively about every single decision, our brain would be completely overwhelmed and we would no longer be able to come to anything.

Think about it... Does it really make sense to let all these small decisions take place through this complicated decision-making process? Definitely not! We need abbreviations, rituals and automatisms to avoid being overwhelmed. In his book, Dr. Kahnemann describes that we have two different systems available for making decisions:

System 1 (FAST): thinks quickly and automatically, intuitively, unintentionally and effortlessly. Example: This is how we usually drive a car as an experienced driver. We also read the facial expression of a person who is facing us in this intuitive way.

The system 2 (SLOW) corresponds to the multi-stage and complex decision-making process described at the beginning of the text. System 2 is particularly suitable for solving complex problems. In doing so, we are always focused and concentrated. We compare data thoroughly and avoid drawing hasty conclusions. Let's note:

Depending on the situation, we either use the fast inductive system 1 (Fast) or the slow rational system 2 (Slow)

Business strategists and clever marketeers are aware of the existence of these two systems. They do everything they can to activate their customers' System 1. Do you remember? System 1 reacts quickly, effortlessly, automatically and without much effort. That is why advertising and marketing strategists are trying to promote buying habits and automatic decisions among customers. As soon as product-related habits have been established, System 1 automatically takes over and intuitively controls buying behavior from then on. Look at the diagram and name the brands on the left and the plants on the right. Which system do you use in each case to solve the task?

brands vs plant

Unless you are a pharmacist or botanist, you will most likely first intuitively and automatically come up with the right brand name for the corresponding logos (=System1). In order to be able to name the corresponding plants, most urban dwellers who are far from nature must activate System 2: They try to remember biology lessons or botanical textbooks. You retrieve stored knowledge about characteristic leaf characteristics, make comparisons between the leaves, etc., until you come close to a possible result.

In contrast, the majority of our everyday decisions are dominated by energy-saving System 1. Because of evolution, we are designed to act efficiently in order to save energy. You can certainly also see this in your own buying behavior. For example, once a coffee brand has gained our sympathy and convinced us of its quality, it is very likely that we will use this product again and again over a longer period of time. This is particularly true when it comes to everyday products. However, even when it comes to luxury products, many consumers remain loyal to a special design or brand for a long time. Some generally only buy a Mercedez car, others always travel to the south of France in summer or only book “AIDA” cruises.

Another example would be Steve Jobs, whose “everyday uniform” consisted of a black turtleneck sweater, jeans and sneakers. This allowed him to avoid having to spend energy deciding on his wardrobe every day. He would rather dedicate the time gained in this way to more important activities. What do these findings mean for the marketing strategy of sustainable companies? Stay tuned and find out the answer in part 2 of this series. Learn what is particularly important when it comes to marketing concepts for sustainable companies in order to make your brand successful and competitive in a targeted manner.

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