On May 11, we kicked off our New Normal webinar series with some of the leaders in the ecofashion space to explore how brands have reacted to the current crisis, how they navigate in our current volatile and uncertain world and the role of sustainability going forward. This is the sixth of the series. You can read about the 5th one here.
The sixth panel of our New Normal webinar series on May 15th explored Marketing for Small Green Businesses. Our moderator for this session was Katie Boothby-Kung, the Social Impact Manager at Shopify, and founder of Copper Root Collective, both roles that have her well-versed in all things marketing for small businesses. She was joined by Christal Earle Founder of Brave Soles, Lauren Harmon Senior International Account Manager at FashionUnited, Eric Dales Director of Operations at Tamga Designs and our very own Akhil Sivanandan, Co-founder of Green Story.
With brick and mortar at a standstill, and almost everything in our lives shifting online, now more than ever marketing strategies can make a huge impact for small businesses. During this panel we explored the shifts we’re seeing in consumer behaviour and how this is affecting small brands, how brands are pivoting to continue to educate their consumers on best practices in the midst of a global pandemic and the power of collaboration for small green businesses.
Christal has found that the current situation has really put an emphasis on the way that consumers are engaging with brands. Once the initial shock wore off from those first couple of weeks in March, consumers were having a bit of an existential crisis and looking for more meaning. For a mission driven brand like Brave Soles, this was a good thing “It kind of comes back to that core essential need of humanity that we want to have a sense of purpose and meaning. When you, at the core, are just authentic about wanting to connect with people and give them a sense of meaning, there’s a better story for them to tell themselves about what they own and what they’re getting behind”.
For Eric, as an online business, things have been looking up as people begin to settle into their new lives at home. “As an online business especially it’s been a really interesting time and it’s opened doors to do a lot more storytelling, community building and really interacting with our customers. I can’t see consumer behavior going back to whatever normal was which wasn’t really normal. It was always shifting towards online. What I would expect is that people are more comfortable after this pandemic than they’ve ever been with purchasing online”. That’s not to say they aren’t dealing with delays, but they see the silver linings and they’re pushing through it.
For all of the consumers who are now reflecting, looking for meaning and wanting to vote with their dollars, brands need to be able to communicate their values. Akhil noted that storytelling has been key for his clients in order to continue to communicate and keep consumers engaged, beyond just pushing sales. “The idea of storytelling is becoming more and more important whether you’re a sustainable brand or not. People are reading more and engaging more. There are only so many products you can browse, at some point you really want to look at the story and the why behind the brand”. Lauren agreed, “When it comes to storytelling right now, transparency is everything…… Even if people right now may not have the budget to make purchases, the stories that will connect with them and their values will stick with them”.
For the audience at FashionUnited, she says the most read articles are the ones exploring sustainability. By focusing on storytelling and being transparent, it allows brands to fill the consumer’s desire to know more.
Eric and Christal have done just that, they’ve prioritized storytelling in their marketing strategies; they’re highlighting how transparent their supply chains are and the relationships that they have with their suppliers. Eric’s makers gave a first hand account from their cell phones. And Christal noted a similar strategy because consumers were really curious to know what was going on with the makers. And this really goes back to a comment Eric made during the panel, they’re working with living breathing supply chains and once people realize that, they’re going to be curious and they’re going to want to know more.
Beyond just telling their own stories, our panelists highlighted how important collaboration has been during this time. Pre-covid collaboration had always been a habit amongst ecofashion brands in comparison to fast fashion. Christal says that she has a community of friends in the ecofashion space rallying together and really utilizing the voices of micro-influencers. “One of the powers of working in collaboration is that we leveraged that collective power to then reach out to micro-influencers”. Katie echoed how beneficial they can be in supporting small green businesses right now. “Focus on those smaller communities because they have such a niche and they really speak to their audience and their audience truly listens to them”. And for Tamga Designs, Eric notes that every step is a collaboration. “We’ve always seen collaboration in a sense that it’s been what we’ve been doing from day 1 with our supply chain. That’s a collaboration too, another business that’s been growing at the same time as us”.
This comes back to the benefits of being a mission driven brand, when you know your reason why, Akhil says people are eager to jump on board, “If you’re a mission-driven brand, collaborations are much easier because you look for people who are aligned with the mission. So, it’s easier to find the right people and you are not as concerned about the competition aspect of things if everybody is driving towards the same mission”.
Katie’s big takeaway and advice from today’s conversation should be top of mind for all small green businesses moving forward: “Just be loud and proud! It’s still a new concept of social commerce and commerce for good. Just constantly be out there! Be excited about who you are and continue telling that amazing story”.
Let’s face it, the current reality isn’t ideal for any brand, but for purpose driven brands and those in the ecofashion space this crisis will provide new consumer outlooks and potential partnerships. Remaining transparent and engaging with consumers through storytelling will help brands weather this situation. It will also help attract consumers who are currently in a personal crisis about their consumption habits. Finding meaning and purpose in purchases is now easier than ever online and by providing them with the information they’re searching for, ecofashion brands will make their way into the mainstream.
If you’re an ecofashion brand, a marketing professional, or just curious to hear more from Katie, Lauren, Eric, Christal and Akhil check out the full length version of this webinar here. And while you’re here, sign up for our mailing list to hear about future events like our New Normal webinar series, you won’t want to miss it!