Is it time to bring a new ‘P’ into the traditional marketing mix?

There is now a consistent, compelling and data-based argument that what customers really want is to buy from a company that is helping the planet and helping the people within it.

The textbook view of the marketing mix typically gives us the 7 ‘Ps’ – originally 4, Product, Price, Place and Promotion (probably where Loyalty resides) – but now usually including also People – really meaning staff or employees – Process and Physical Evidence (or sometimes Packaging).

These have long been a way of identifying what customers want – with a brand able to choose a positioning and measure themselves against these aspects.

But maybe only now can we see clearly that there’s a ‘P’ in the Marketing Mix that has been missing all along – and which cannot be ignored any longer.

Well actually two Ps in one – Planet and People. We need to see all the other elements of the marketing mix in the context of the impact our activities are having on both the planet we all inhabit and our fellow human inhabitants on earth.

By Planet I’m meaning the welfare of the planet and everything in it: Sustainability, global warming and its effects, protecting wildlife from extinction as well as the welfare of all animals.

And People in this sense comprises well-being, physical and mental health, human rights, fights against poverty, homelessness, provision of education and so on.

Our customers are now looking to us as brands not only to act responsibly with regard to the impact of OUR activities on both Planet and People – but also to HELP THEM have a positive impact on these things in their daily lives.

Cultural context

But first let’s remind ourselves of the cultural context.

Greta Thunberg  – the 16 year old, schoolchild eco-warrior from Sweden – has become a household name recently, leading the charge on behalf of school children around the world, calling for urgent action to reduce global warming and its devastating effects on the planet.

We literally have demonstrations on the streets of the cities of the world by Extinction Rebellion – not just from extremist, eco-warrior activists, but from civil servants, teachers, business people, mothers, fathers and grandparents making their voices heard that an emergency should be declared to save the environment.

Now this is a small proportion of the population actively demonstrating, but this is just the visible tip of the iceberg. For example, David Attenborough’s Blue Planet has taken the impact we’re having on our planet visibly and shockingly into the homes of people around the world. And the BBC’s new Seven Worlds, One Planet is about to do the same.

Plastic waste has shot up the agenda and carried with it a greater openness to environmental warnings about global warming that have arguably been unheeded for years.

And it’s not just about environmental or Green issues.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals broaden the definition of Sustainability to include more of the People aspects – addressing poverty, hunger, gender equality, water cleanliness, education, injustice and so on.

Increasingly brands are also being called upon to demonstrate and REPORT on the part they are playing in addressing these issues – and that is a trend that is only going to grow.



What customers want

There is plenty of data to show that people believe the actions they take CAN make a difference. In Futerra’s study involving over 1,000 consumers in the USA and UK, they found 96% of people feel their own actions, such as donating, recycling or buying ethically, can make a difference.

But it goes further than that.

Brands do have a key role to play in this. Whilst people think they can make a difference, they also want more help doing it. 

Forbes recently reported on that Futerra survey revealing an overwhelming demand for brands to step up on sustainable lifestyles. 88% of those surveyed in the UK and US say they want brands to HELP THEM be more environmentally friendly and ethical in daily life.

Sustainable Brands puts it like this: “Purpose, therefore, goes beyond what companies can do to make their products sustainable and is more about helping consumers make their lives more sustainable.”

Accenture found that ‘Approximately 60% of Gen Zers and Millennials believe it’s important for companies to take a stand on issues such as human rights, race relations or LGBTQ equality. Barely more than 50% of Gen Xers and Boomers feel the same.’ So in general terms, the younger the generation, the more they care about these social issues.

Accenture’s report in this area, ‘To Affinity and Beyond’ asked consumers: “What attracts you to buy from certain brands over others APART from price and quality?”. You may find some of the answers surprising:-

  • 62% - said it was because the brand believe in reducing plastics and improving the environment
  • 62% - that the brand has ethical values and demonstrates authenticity in everything it does
  • 52% - that the brand stands for something bigger than just the products and services it sells, which aligns with the customer’s personal values

So theses sustainability issues are clearly becoming drivers of brand preference and purchase by the customer’s own admission. But do customers always behave the way they say they will?

In this case, to a certain extent certainly.

Accenture report: “Unilever has seen, first-hand, the tangible value of making purpose a core driver of growth and differentiation. Nearly half of its top 40 brands focus on sustainability. These “Sustainable Living” brands, including Knorr, Dove and Lipton, are good for society. They are also good for Unilever—growing 50% faster than the company’s other brands and delivering more than 60% of the company’s growth.”

But what’s all of that got to do with Loyalty?

A lot. Given that Loyalty describes our brand’s engagement with our customers, it is our number one customer engagement tool where we seek a relationship with the consumer that goes beyond the not transactional, with an element of emotional connection.

At For Good Causes we use the term ‘Democratising CSR’ – by which we mean turning Corporate Social Responsibility from an internal, introverted issue managed by HR or Public Affairs into an externally facing, customer and employee engaging powerful tool to help drive the business. Can we incorporate this newly recognised aspect of the marketing mix onto our programmes to help re-invigorate both our programmes and our brands, whilst having a positive impact on sustainability?

Yes we can!

There are some great examples out there of brands starting to incorporate sustainability and charitable causes into their programmes. It has to be said that these are more the exceptions rather than the norm – remember the 88% of people who said they want brand to help them be environmentally and ethically friendly in daily life? Only 28% of them said that brands are making it easier to do so – less than the 43% who said brands are making it harder!

But a cross section of good examples include:

  • Pets at Home have generated over £11m for hundreds of animal related charities
  • Co-op combines something for the customer and something for the community with its Membership proposition - 5% for the consumer and 1% for a local charity
  • M&S have generated over £6m so far with their Sparks 1p a swipe contribution to one of the ten big charities they feature 
  • Shell enable consumers to offset their carbon footprint with carbon credits generated from planting trees

Our very own For Good Causes allows Loyalty points or miles to be turned into donations to the charity of the CUSTOMER’S choice – with over 17,000 charities in the UK for them to choose from on our platform. By allowing such a wide choice of charities for consumers to support, we’re tapping into the aspect of social impact that the customer themselves cares about the most.

We have seen thousands of Vodafone Pay as you Go customers redeem their points for charity, donating to over 850 different charities in August alone. Nit that surprising really. All customers are not the same and you can’t tell people what to care about. 

Bringing CSR into the Loyalty mix actually ticks a lot of today’s marketing requirements – not only addressing the Planet and People challenges, but also delivering personalisation, localisation, a digital and mobile first experience – as well as of course tapping into the real emotional connections consumers have with the cause they care about.

So – what DO customers really want?

Of course they want a great quality product at a great price, they love a promotion and rewards and they need to get it where and when they want – in other words in the Place they want it.

But now they want all of that AND they want to know that they can have it without costing the Earth. 

They want to know that the brands they’re buying from are delivering that sustainably and, moreover, they want you to help them make choices that enrich and not denude the Planet we live on - contributing to the health, wealth and happiness of their communities and of communities around the world.

Right now I believe there is an opportunity to be on the front foot with this – to get business benefit from not only acting sustainably but engaging your customers to act sustainably; but it won’t be long before that too becomes a table-stake and those that have not done so will be playing catch up just to stand still.

When does the tipping point between getting business benefit and it being purely defensive come? Probably sooner than you’d like!