What To Call Animal-Free Materials
If brands seek to understand what their marketing strategy should be in terms of maintaining and acquiring consumers who are interested in new products, they should look no further than the North Mountain Consulting Group’s study of American attitudes toward new marketing nomenclatures (or names). As the study states; “a new category of high performance and more sustainable materials are emerging as an alternative to materials traditionally sourced from animals, including leather, silk, fur, wool, down, and ‘exotic’ skins.” In this report, the authors set out to study attitudes towards the names of these new materials, and which terms are preferred compared to their conventional counterparts.
After surveying a sample of 500 respondents who were representative of the country at large in terms of age, sex, region, and race, the authors researched ‘new’ branding terms currently being used and reached out to stakeholders who could assist with identifying top names. The appropriate list that was determined by the authors and was used on the survey included next-gen, animal-free, eco, alternative, bio-based, vegan, and bio. It should be noted, all of these are terms that are already used to describe a multitude of product types and industries such as food and clothing, rather than one particular product type; individuals were not given any indication that there was a price differential between these terms.
It turns out consumers’ top preferred term was next-gen materials, followed by animal-free and eco. Participants explained a range of reasons for why they chose each preference, citing that next-gen ”cued innovation, encompassed and described multiple product characteristics, and was appealing for multiple audiences.” Animal-free enjoyed the second-placed spot, due to its welfare focus and immediately descriptive nature. In terms of appeal, eco materials was the highest-rated, and in terms of descriptiveness, animal-free was the highest-rated. Moreover, when asked to determine which term had the highest appeal compared to their conventional counterparts (leather, fur, etc.), animal-free was chosen five out of six times (leather, fur, wool, down, crocodile skin), with super-silk being the only one to perform better than animal-free silk when comparing to the conventional term ‘silk.’
After analyzing the data, the authors recommended next-gen as the “…overarching, consumer-friendly term” that can be used in conjunction with industry-specific names such as ‘plant-based’ for the food sector, or ‘Energy Star” for Energy Star rated household appliances. The study offers the caveat that branding decisions should differ on a case-by-case basis depending on the context and goal. For instance, it may be more appropriate for a brand to elect to use the animal-free and vegan label if they are trying to target consumers who are eager to try new products, as the animal-free and vegan label may have performed better with that specific demographic — compared to the totality of attitudes of consumers, which includes those who are simply “open”, rather than eager, to try new products. There may be a stereotype that a segment of consumers are averse to language associated with terms that are thought of to be more ‘liberal’, such as eco or vegan, but this study clearly indicates there is an appetite amongst all U.S. adults for products with purpose, whether that purpose be innovation, animal welfare, or environmental sustainability.