How brands are saving the environment and getting great engagement

These days many consumers assume that any discerning brand will use at least some eco-friendly policies, but some brands take it further than that. They take a stand. They launch a campaign showing just how dedicated they are to the environment beyond recycled packaging and vegetable ink. By doing so they don’t just help the environment and their chosen cause, they also help their revenue streams.

This year fast food giant McDonald’s decided to use their sustainably sourced fish as a bait for consumers.

The Fillet-O-Fish sandwich is the most popular during Lent each year when Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. In fact, 25% of ALL Fillet-O-Fish sandwiches in America are sold during Lent!

Using this to their advantage, McDonald’s created local campaigns to show that the fish used for Fillet-O-Fish sandwiches is sustainably harvested in Alaska. According to Ad Age Dan Coudreaut, McDonald’s executive chef and VP-culinary innovation said: ”In today’s day and age people want to know what’s going in their food [and] where is it coming from.”

Coudreaut appears to be right – according to the State of Sustainability Initiatives, in 2015 sustainable seafood accounted for 14% of global production – up from 0,5% in 2005. Numbers which will, no doubt, affect any brand marketing their sustainable angle.

It’s hard to tell exactly how successful the Fillet-O-Fish campaign has been as most of it happened offline, but the videos posted on YouTube had about 45,000 views combined. There are other indicators that show exactly how much sustainability means to consumers and affect sales and marketing number though.

The Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability report from late 2015 showed that 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. Not only that, Nielsen also reported that putting a sustainable message on the packaging wasn’t enough – the message needed to be included in marketing materials to increase sales. According to their research, sales increased by 4.3% when marketing the sustainable side of the business. Furthermore, Nielsen suggests that saying isn’t enough – validation is needed, be it through employees doing volunteer work, media reports, or collaboration with not-for-profits.

Coors Light is another brand that’s pushing their sustainability angle this summer by showing off how they turn their billboards into cooler bags and their kegs into BBQ grills. This comes together with a push to get their clients to recycle beer bottles. Their campaign is aptly named “Every One Can” and according to Ad Age it was tested with favorable results on consumers before launching the campaign.

Another company with a long history of sustainability is Patagonia. In 2011 they did their now famous “Don’t Buy This Jacket” Black Friday campaign, urging consumers NOT to spend money on what they didn’t need. In nine months sales were up by about 1/3.

Today Patagonia continue with this trend and they focus a lot of their marketing efforts on social media, using content marketing. They have long since supported environmental causes, especially protecting the Bears Ears monument in America. To highlight the cause and as part of their content marketing strategy, they’ve created interactive videos. One they released 3 weeks ago has had 11,563 views on their YouTube channel. However, Instagram is their more popular feed – a mini video they released yesterday urging people to defend Bears Ears has already had a whopping 153k views and 119 comments, whereas one from May 8th now has 237k views and 458 comments.

A photo of a National Park posted on May 5th has had 50.4k likes. The accompanying comment from Patagonia read: “Dear Secretary Zinke, Our public lands, including the National Monuments you are now reviewing, represent a vital part of our nation’s heritage—a legacy that belongs not just to us, but to all future generations of Americans.” It is followed by an invitation to read their full letter to Secretary Zinke.

Through all this Patagonia isn’t promoting its products, but what they stand for. And looking at the stats surrounding user involvement, people are willing to buy their products because they stand for the same thing. One of Patagonia’s current hashtags is #OurChoicesDefineUs. Indeed they do. And Patagonia, with its 2.7M followers on Instagram, has tapped into it beautifully.

Looking at brands such as Patagonia that’s had immense success with their “green” campaigns and going over the numbers supplied by Nielsen and the State of Sustainability Initiatives, it looks like Coors and McDonald’s are onto something with their new campaigns. It’s definitively something every marketer should bear in mind when crafting social media content and ad campaigns – if you can add a sustainable angel to the campaign, why not do so?



Dan Coudreaut, Mcdonald's

State of Sustainability Initiatives


Coors Light