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How to Make Your Brand Activation More Sustainable

  • Bobby Johnson

A handful of choices can transform a brand activation into a sustainable event, and we can show you how to do it.

Brand activations are a conversation between a consumer and a company, a chance for the brand to impress. Consumers are concerned about sustainability more than ever, and they want to see the brands they interact with make a difference. This is an issue that matters: heck, the founder of Patagonia just gave away his entire company and diverted the funds to climate change. 

You don’t have to go that far, of course, but even just examining your brand activations and trying to do better can improve sustainability across the board. 

“Sustainable practices for brands have become more important than ever to show consumers their dedication to the environment. It does not have to be an overbearing component of the campaign, but with a few small tweaks it can drive home your brand sustainability goals.”Ralph Failla, Senior Account Director at Inspira Marketing Group

One great way to make your event sustainable is to integrate green causes into your activation.

Make sustainability part of the activation

Working sustainability into the literal function of your brand activation isn’t always possible, but it’s a great avenue to pursue if you can. 

Reach out to local eco-focused organizations and initiatives. First, do some research into the efforts of local green programs. Many organizations are happy to sponsor or partner with your brand to clean up a beach, gamify a recycling drive, or improve a local park. 

Create activation engagements that include your dedication to sustainability. Maybe an element of your brand activation connects with a charitable organization, and the number of people who visit the activation or perform a task increases donations. Even something like a rising donation counter can spur excitement, and let consumers know that your brand is walking the walk.  

The next step, one every brand activation should consider, is to eliminate waste in your giveaways. 

Choose better swag

Mintel’s “2022 Sustainability Barometer” report found that non-recyclable packaging, food waste, and clothing waste are the top three behaviors consumers are trying to improve.

When it comes to brand activation swag, products in packages, food samples, and free clothing are three of the most common hand-outs. To meet consumers where they live, brands can improve the sustainability of their activation by being mindful of their swag. 

Branded plastic swag is the first place to cut back. Especially when the swag isn’t particularly valuable and is likely to end up in the trash. Cheap water bottles, plastic bags, pop sockets, toys, lanyards, and little plastic knick-knacks should all go. Instead, think of swag made of more eco-friendly materials. Anything manufactured from recycled material is a great starting place, which you should be able to find in the product description, or at places like Ethical Swag

Wood and tin are excellent choices for materials, as are useful but non-plastic items like candles.

Consider eliminating clothing swag that isn’t going to be worn. A low-quality t-shirt or hat with just a plain logo probably isn’t going into regular rotation in a consumer’s wardrobe unless they’re painting their house. If you’re handing out clothing, the best way to keep it out of the trash is to make something that actually looks good. A logo isn’t enough. Come up with a t-shirt design that sparks excitement, something a person might actually buy. It’s pricier but far less wasteful.

People love little plants, too, which make a great giveaway item (especially with a branded pot). Maybe a little hard to carry at an expo, but giving a tiny little aloe plant at a skincare activation makes for great synergy. 

Switch to Greener Transportation and Energy

Think about how all of the gear and materials for your brand activation are getting to the convention, pop-up, or park. The vehicles you use and the fuel you burn can be changed to more sustainable options. 

For mobile tours, a commitment to more sustainable transportation is ideal. Electric or hybrid vehicles to transport your materials and your crew can make a huge difference during a long tour. 

Stationary activations can still make smarter, more sustainable choices too. Integrating solar panels into outdoor activations can relieve some of the power draw, as can choosing power-efficient appliances for all of your activation’s electrical needs.

Build Modular Activations with Sustainable Materials

The physical design of your brand activation is a perfect place to get eco-friendly. In fact, thinking in terms of “single activations” could be the problem, too.

Design your activations with modularity in mind. One-of-a-kind designs are always going to be important with brand activations, of course: that’s your “wow” factor. But if the basic skeleton of your footprint is built to be reusable and reconfigurable, you don’t have to start from scratch each time. 

“Brands commitment to sustainability has extended all the way through the line. We see an opportunity to support their commitment through our experiential programs building modular, efficient and sustainable brand assets to provide a neutral eco-friendly footprint for our programs.”Dan Sullivan, Chief Engagement Officer, Inspira

Booth and structure pieces that are made sturdy won’t break after a few uses and can be repurposed for future activations to improve sustainability. Recycled steel and wood are excellent choices for displays, pieces that can be “reskinned” easily with new brand content.

The longer these reusable elements last, the fewer resources are wasted in the long run. There’s a dual benefit there, of course: not just helping the environment, but spending less money on each activation.  

Sustainable and Efficiency Go Hand-in-Hand

Consumers are asking more from brands, a sense of responsibility alongside their products. They want to know what they consume gels with their concern for the planet, and in a way even helps define them.

But, when you really think about it, sustainability is just efficiency. Making your brand activation more efficient benefits the planet, your budget, and your message. There’s really no downside. 

If you need help getting started, reach out to Inspira Marketing for more help on setting up a sustainable, fun, and effective brand activation.