A new Adweek-Harris Poll survey found that consumers responded better to messages of positivity and action
Earth Day is later this week, and brands have a lot planned to mark the holiday: campaigns highlighting sustainability initiatives, new commitments to lower emissions and donations to organizations working to preserve forests and natural areas.
To get a sense of how consumers are likely to respond to those initiatives, Adweek partnered with Harris Poll to gauge sentiment around past Earth Day campaigns—which ones led consumers to buy, what’s been most memorable and how different strategies change consumers’ perception of brands.
Environmental views vary by generation
Overall, consumers don’t feel strongly about whether brands chime in on sustainability issues around Earth Day—only 20% of respondents said that it’s important for brands to advertise the holiday. Only 37% said it’s important that brands make environmentally conscious decisions like reducing their carbon footprints and supporting environmentally friendly causes.
But when broken down by generation, the picture shifts. Older consumers are more likely to say they’re trying to make environmentally conscious decisions each day (47% of baby boomers versus 40% of Gen Zers and 37% of millennials). However, younger consumers are more likely to say they’ve been inspired by Earth Day campaigns to make more environmentally conscious decisions. Around a third of Gen Z and millennial respondents agreed that Earth Day ad campaigns have swayed their purchasing decisions versus 10% of boomers.
Still, there might be a more dedicated group of environmentally conscious consumers within the overall respondents. Of those who remember seeing an Earth Day ad in the past few years, nearly half (48%) said they purchased from a brand because of it. Within that group, younger consumers were more likely to do so than older consumers—63% of millennials and 57% of Gen Z who remember an Earth Day campaign in the last couple years said they’ve bought from the brand who promoted it. Only 42% of Gen X and 24% of baby boomers said the same.
Positivity is a better motivator than shame
When asked about which types of ads would improve a person’s opinion of a brand or inspire a purchase, consumers responded better overall to positive messages.
Over half (55%) of respondents said they’d be more likely to buy from a brand that highlighted preventative measures like recycling or prioritizing eco-friendly options in their Earth Day advertising, while just 41% said they’d be be motivated by an ad that focused on the negative impacts of human behavior on the environment.
Similarly, more consumers (60%) said they’d have a better opinion of a brand that ran ads discussing reactive measures related to reducing environmental impacts, like planting trees or picking up litter, while fewer consumers (44%) said they’d have a better opinion of a brand that highlighted negative impacts of human behavior on the environment in advertising.