Yay or Nay to #Plasticfree Singapore?

Min Li Chan

Brand Strategy Team, Singapore

Mindful consumerism is on the rise. More consumers are paying attention to the impact they are making on the environment with their usage of plastic products such straws and disposable cutleries. Here in Singapore, brands are jumping on the green bandwagon to advocate the #plasticfree movement, especially within the F&B scene. Though some brands are applauded for their environmental consciousness, others’ efforts are perceived negatively by consumers as they are only seen as “marketing or cost-saving” ploys.

As such, marketers are questioning how their brands can rise above the public relation context and showcase their commitment towards environmental issues. In this article, we will discuss the consumer archetypes that shape the plastic-free sentiment landscape and identify how brands can motivate consumer involvement to fight the war on plastic. 

The #Plasticfree Sentiment Landscape in Singapore

Over the past year, there were 3.1K conversations generated across online social and media platforms in Singapore regarding the plastic ban and ‘Bring Your Own’ (BYO) lifestyle. Although the majority (59%) of the conversations are neutral, a substantial group of consumers (31%) are observed to be receptive towards the #plasticfree movement. The number of conversations around “plastic-free” initiatives has also continually increased with over 600 posts recorded in July 2018.  

As with any other brands that take the first stride in championing a cause, KFC’s No Straw initiative launched in June 2018 received a tremendous amount of consumer feedback. The move was applauded by some consumers and recognized as KFC’s first baby step towards an eco-conscious environment. There were also negative sentiments, however, about the lack of alternatives to the straw and the brand’s expectation that its consumers would adapt to the change so quickly.

#Plasticfree: The 8 Types of Consumers

To effectively engage consumers on the #plasticfree initiative, brands need to first understand the different consumer behaviours and attitudes towards the topic. Through social listening, we have identified 8 consumer archetypes by decoding consumers’ responses to brands’ plastic-free initiatives in Singapore. 

Beyond the identification of different consumer archetypes, brands also need to understand the cultural insights that propel the varied responses, especially towards the neutral and negative end. Brands are then able to make their mark around the #plasticfree initiatives in Singapore.

1. Brands to be Considerate and Transparent with Initiatives to Counter the “Complaint Mentality”

Since its founding years, Singapore has been a stable and structured society that built its foundation on equality. This has developed a sense of entitlement and resistance to change amongst us, which then leads to indignance about a proposed initiative if a compromise or behavioural change is required. Though most of us understand that complaints do not necessarily improve the situation, we still find the act of complaining justified when an expression is “on the record”.

To counter the complaint mentality, brands should take into consideration potential consumer reactions and determine ways to resolve these issues before championing a cause. It is to reduce the perception of unjust treatment and to foster a sense of camaradarie with consumers by sharing the objective and step-by-step plans to encourage behavioural modification.

For example, when Starbucks announced its plan to go straw-free by 2020, the brand also introduced an alternative sippy cup lid and paper straws as substitutes. By communicating the plan ahead of the implementation, Starbucks could observe consumer reactions and take time to gradually convince the consumers to modify their consumption behaviour. This is important to “The Sceptics” and “The Complaint King/Queen” group who seeks valid justification to address their indignance. 

2. Transform the “Mind my own business” Mentality Through Consumer Education and Rewards

Singaporeans are known to be embracing and respectful of others’ religion and culture. However, there is a constant cognitive dissonance between the “mind my own business” mentality and the “be kind and gracious” mentality. This stems from our innate desire for efficiency; where a deviation to lend a helping hand can be disruptive. A recent study involving Singapore consumers discovered that people are only willing to alter their behaviour to be more environmentally conscious only when they feel that the action has a direct impact on their loved ones. 

Capitalizing on this insight, brands could increase consumer involvement in the #plasticfree lifestyle by communicating how wastage has a direct impact on the consumer's loved ones. It is through delivering informational and thought-provoking content that reduced and recycled usage of plastic can be effectively encouraged. Given that only 6% of plastic waste is recycled in the country, a reduction in the total plastic wastage is the best way forward to ensure a sustainable future. Groups championing these causes have taken a leap in creating and amplifying the messages. To achieve a stronger call-to-action, it has to be endorsed and lived up by brands. 

Beyond consumer education messages, brands can also influence “The Indifferent”, “The Smart Workaround” and “The Sceptics” consumer groups by incentivising them. For example, coffee chains like Starbucks, CBTL, Joe & Dough take 50 cents off a bill when consumers bring their own tumblers for every purchase. UnPackt, a zero-waste grocery store, encourages consumers to bring their own containers and purchase items at an appropriate quantity. Sourcing their items in bulk, UnPackt transfers the saved costs to consumers by pricing the items approximately 5% lower than competitors. Through such initiatives, positive reinforcement can work to counter inertia and drive action towards the cause. 

Leading and Living the #Plasticfree Lifestyle

Fundamentally, we care about the environment and seek to protect it in their own ways. The advent of plastic products has brought tremendous convenience to our lives that is hard to resist – from F&B consumption, to shopping and to garbage waste disposal. Although changing our consumption behaviour can be difficult, it is not impossible. The journey to be green is a long and immersive one. Brands need to work hand-in-hand with their consumers to achieve the plastic-free goal. Through the consumer archetypes depicted above, we hope brands embarking on the green journey are able to devise ways that enable a better execution of their #plasticfree initiatives.

At Labbrand, we aid and support brands that innovate towards a sustainable future. Feel free to contact us if the suggestions have worked for you, or if you have any questions on the 8 consumers archetype towards a #plasticfree lifestyle.   

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