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10 OCT. 2018

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. 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 their consumers as only “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. 

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 Singaporeans, which then leads to indignance about a proposed initiative if a compromise or behavioral change is required. Though most understand that their complaints do not necessarily improve the situation, it is for them to feel 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 comradely with consumers by sharing the objective and step-by-step plans to encourage behavioral 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 behavior. This is important to “The Sceptics” and “The Complaint King/Queen” group who seeks valid justification to address their indignance. 

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. 

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