Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, March 23, 2023
The relationship between brands and consumers has never stopped changing—think of the shift from print to radio to TV to online advertising—but it’s how this connection changes across generations in new consumer research that emphasizes how fast the relationship can evolve.
Consumer research for New Hope Network’s recently published NEXT Sustainability Marketing Special Report reveals a steady progression in how much weight consumers give to social media as a source of information about a brands’ sustainability. What might be most interesting in the findings is Generation Z emerging as the only age group relying more on social media than packaging to learn how sustainable a brand might be.
The ratio of social media as education to packaging as education for Gen Z is not especially dramatic, 38% cite social media compared to 33% for packaging, but the sudden shift stands out. All the other generations look to packaging more than social media. The difference between the two information sources is actually greater for Gen X than for millennials, and then this ratio flips for Gen Z.
This suggests that the challenge is very different for brands trying to reach Gen Z than other generations, but it might not be cause to suddenly rejigger marketing campaigns. The truth in the research for the Special Report is that messaging across all communiation mediums is important. We’ve talked about omnichannel for years but for sustainability, the mission is really omnimessaging.
That’s especially true for natural products brands. Such brands, by definition, focus on natural channel shoppers, and these shoppers surveyed in the research pay more attention than consumers overall to all but one medium when looking for information about a brand they are considering purchasing. While social media is becoming a more prominent source of marketing, storytelling and information, natural channel shoppers demonstrate grocery stores (i.e. shelf tags, promotions, signage, etc.), word of mouth, product packaging, and social media are all almost equally important sources of information for the natural consumer. Thus, this omni-messaging strategy is a pathway to connect with the natural consumer on their journey to purchase. We should also note that natural shoppers are more likely to research claims made on social media, a messaging arena that stands out for misinformation. That could make on-package certifications extremely important.
In short, message matters. While the medium through which the message is deployed often changes, the point is to get it out there. Shoppers are paying attention and brands need to meet them wherever they are.
To learn more about sustainability messaging strategy informed by generation and natural channel shopper insights, check out the Sustainability Marketing Special Report: How to amplify your brand's commitment.