Ecodrive's Trevor Laudate On Using Influencers To Run Purpose-Driven Businesses

Archana Mishra
Content Manager
October 10, 2022
min read

When Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, donated his company in September 2022 to combat climate change, it was a far more exceptional action than any business had taken before. Not many can go that far. Here a company like Ecodrive comes into the picture, helping other businesses reduce their overall environmental impact by helping them plant trees, one for each order.

A tangible, transparent, simple, and affordable way towards sustainability is what Trevor Laudate, co-founder, Ecodrive calls it in his conversation with Archana Mishra of Laudate, who worked as a brand strategist and director of communications before starting Ecodrive in 2020, believes consumers are demanding businesses make real differences in various social issue areas, one of the most prominent being climate change. 

And it just can't be feel-good buzzwords because consumers are getting more thoughtful and critical about the marketing they encounter. He claims that in doing so, influencer marketing has become a powerful tool. It enables them to accomplish consumer trust more quickly than they could have done with traditional paid media distribution on social media.

He goes into great detail about his work and how consumers unquestionably want to support companies that take a stand for sustainability. He also discusses why it's critical to invest more in social media and run advertisements through influencers' pages and accounts because these platforms have a history of successfully promoting products for some brands.

Q. Trevor, what you've been doing to integrate environmental responsibility into business operations is exceptional. Particularly at a time when consumers look up to well-known companies to lead the charge against climate change. Tell us what Ecodrive's position with the brands and the consumers is. 

We know that these expectations are evolving in the right direction. According to Shopify, 77% of consumers are concerned with the environmental impact of the products they buy. And 65% of consumers expect CEOs to do more to make progress on societal issues, including reducing carbon emissions. These numbers will certainly continue to increase over time, especially as young people, who are generally the most concerned about climate change, grow and can make more purchasing decisions. 

We think incorporating sustainability into your business is quickly moving away from being "something extra" or nice to have and more towards being a necessity. Our mission is to help brands no matter where they are on their sustainability journey. We work with brands to plant verified trees, often one for every order, to reduce their overall impact on the planet. We understand that planting trees is just one of the many steps a brand should take, but a tangible, transparent, simple, and affordable one nonetheless.

Consumers want to see that brands are making a real effort and are constantly finding ways to improve. You don't have to be perfect, but you have to be open and honest about where you're starting, the progress you've made, and where you want to end up. Exaggerating what you're doing may be tempting to some brands, but it will always backfire, and people will accuse you of greenwashing, a label you never want to receive. So make an effort, set goals, and stay honest. That's what we help brands to do. We are here to serve as the simplest but most tangible and transparent solution available. Everyone understands that trees are good.

Q. Brand activism undoubtedly affects consumer choices, and many businesses are already engaging in it internally. What sets Ecodrive apart from its competitors in the market and makes it uniquely suited to help brands increase conversion rates and attract new customers?

Consumers are demanding businesses make real, tangible differences in various social issue areas, one of the biggest being climate change. And many brands want to step up to the plate, both to benefit their bottom line but also because they genuinely care about the planet and want to be part of positive change. But climate change and sustainability are huge and complex issues that can feel overwhelming to tackle and can even be extremely expensive and disruptive to their model, especially to smaller businesses with lower capacities. 

What sets Ecodrive apart is that we make sustainability simple, engaging, and affordable for our brands and their customers. When you want to partner with us, you simply sign up, integrate your store and have climate action available at the click of a button. When engaging customers with things like banner callouts in cart, we see an average lift of 17% from cart to checkout conversions. 

We have a full array of strategies that help brands increase retention and LTV through email, acquisitions through partners and paid channels, and way more. We know that for sustainability to be sustainable for a business, it needs to see an ROI. We provide many different ways to partner, from tree planting for online orders, reviews, email captures, POS transactions, and beyond. We take a brand-first approach to sustainability that allows us to support our brands, make it simple and done in a customer-centric way, which results in more support for our planet. 

Q. Speaking of marketing techniques, Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard, recently donated his company to the fight against climate change. He has raised the bar for marketing with a purpose. How do you envision the future of purpose-driven marketing?

Yvon has always been a trailblazer in this space and someone I highly look up to. We have Patagonia to thank for a lot of the work that is currently being done in this space, and when the news came out, I knew it would only increase the exposure and the intent behind this movement. 

It's both an amazing thing to do for our planet, and it perfectly aligns with the ethos of their company. Chouinard has totally raised the bar for marketing with purpose, but I think this will likely always be the exception, not the rule. Most companies will probably not go this far, but I think Chouinard's donation will definitely have a lasting impact on the space. It shows it is more than just marketing with a purpose, but something in the DNA across the entire business. That is how we should all think about sustainability.

Purpose-driven marketing is becoming more popular, and that's fantastic, if and only if, the claims being made by companies are legitimate. Some companies are, unfortunately, talking the talk in their marketing but not walking the walk, and that's where they're running into problems. There has to be a real purpose behind your purpose-driven marketing, not just feel-good buzz words because consumers are getting smarter and more critical about the marketing they encounter. If a business isn't taking real action to reduce its impact or do good for the planet but makes it seem like they are just waiting for backlash to happen.

I see a future where purpose-driven marketing is the new standard practice. I hope for both the sake of the planet and the sake of companies partaking in this marketing that real action will be behind it, and from what I have seen, almost all intentions of brands we work with are pure.

Q. How important a role do you think influencer marketing plays in brand activism campaigns to bring out the real action?

We have seen influencer marketing as one of the most powerful marketing tools for brand activism campaigns. The key word there being campaigns. If it is a one-time campaign a brand is running that isn't true to their core, then it is extremely important to partner with people who live and breathe that activism and have an audience built around it. People are more likely to trust and believe a person they follow or respect than a brand running a campaign solely, even if they really like that brand. 

A good influencer marketing campaign can bring a level of authenticity and relatability brands just can't quite capture on their own. Influencers have their own voices and personalities that are less polished and "corporate" than most brands. And consumers can find that endearing and feel that they "know" this person that they follow.

Influencers do share a lot of their lives with their followers, after all. And consumers are more likely to buy from a "friend" or someone they feel they can trust. They know that influencers receive compensation for promoting products, but they still believe that the influencer believes in the product, especially if it aligns with their values. Oftentimes, our brands partner with eco-friendly influencers to align with their audience around sustainability. 


Q. Given your experience in the field of digital marketing, which of the most recent developments in social media have you been excited about and why? Is it influencer marketing or social media advertising?

The landscape has changed so much in the last few years, especially since the IOS.14 update. It's honestly tough to be excited about advertising on social media channels. Having a new platform like TikTok definitely keeps things interesting and exciting. It's shocking how many brands are still scared to at least try new platforms when there is clearly a playbook that works, not to mention you can still get incredible free exposure/impressions on TikTok for free if you make the right content.  

I do think it's exciting to see that the changes in the landscape have forced brands to focus on the quality and quantity of content. It's cheesy, but a classic saying in digital marketing is content is king and targeting is queen. With targeting now being limited, it's great to see the brands doubling down on social media content. Short-form video content is something brands should all be creating regularly and pushing out on all social platforms.

Outside of that, it's exciting to see the strong brands with great products still performing relatively well with their digital marketing. Gone is the day of growth hacking a bad product and brand to success using only FB ads. I think this is exciting because it means real brands will win together with their consumers long-term. A true brand has an audience and loyal customers that will stick with them when times get tough, and that's reflected in marketing performance. Seeing good companies that we have built relationships with over the years being able to weather the storm of IOS.14 or economic downturns is always exciting and encouraging. 

On the influencer side of things, running ads through an influencer's own page/account that has a proven track record of selling products is working well for some brands. This should be someone that has a committed, long-term partnership vs. just a one-and-done type thing.

The last thing I'd say that excites me (shameless plug here) is that people, without question, want to buy from brands that are taking a stance on sustainability. We test it all the time, and adding a line like "we plant a tree with every purchase" and a CTA to "shop sustainably" or "purchase & plant" outperforms on paid media channels every time we see a brand test it.

Q. You mentioned brands doubling down their budget for social media. Considering the current scenario, out of the social media advertising and Influencer marketing, which strategy's demand is increasing to sensitize about a brand's cause?

We've all probably felt the change in social media advertising after IOS14. It has made it more difficult to pinpoint the audience that you know cares about a brand's cause. Brands now have to find additional ways to acquire customers and build connections with them. I think influencer marketing is more effective when trying to get people to buy into a cause because there's a friendly face attached to it, plays into the community aspect with values aligned and brings great additional exposure to brands. 

Influencer was always more difficult to track in the past than your standard ROAS era, but things have shifted from a dynamic focused around ROAS to one focused more on the overall lift and LTV a brand has. Speaking solely from a cause marketing perspective, I believe influencer campaigns help to accomplish this for brands better than traditional paid media distribution via social channels. With that said, the cause marketing needs to be authentic, there needs to be a full-funnel approach, and it has to be tied to something tangible. Ultimate success in today's era isn't just about 1 channel, it's about product, brand, approach, content, placement, distribution, experience, and community.


Q. Influencer marketing works, no doubt about it. But managing a campaign can be challenging. So, how do you maintain a 1:1 relationship with creators? What are the typical challenges you face when collaborating with influencers? Do you have any advice for overcoming the difficulties?

Transparency and clear communication are two of the most important things to remember when working 1:1 with creators. I also think having patience and understanding, especially with creators who may be new to working with brands, is also crucial. When we do this sort of marketing every day, we might forget that most people don't have the same knowledge base as us. A smaller influencer might not have experience with 1099s or invoices. Making them feel comfortable asking you questions will make the process so much smoother in the long run. 


Q. Any brand(s) that come to mind when you think of social cause campaigns or organizations that stood out in creating awareness on social media? 

One of the first steps to creating brand awareness is cultivating a clear brand identity that will resonate with the intended audience. And one of the first brands that do that well is our partner, Proud Source Water (PSW). PSW bottles fresh spring water in aluminum bottles to provide clean, great-tasting drinking water as an alternative to water bottled in plastic. 

First, they are sustainable from head to toe - they're walking the walk. They aim to donate $5 million back to the environment by 2030 and to divert 200 million bottles from landfills and back into a truly recycled world. They are also B Corp certified, which involves a very thorough and lengthy application process. It demonstrates their commitment to sustainability at the center of their operations. 

The other, who introduced us to tree planting in the first place, would be Tentree. They've always had cause marketing built into their DNA and campaigns. Like 10 years ago, I think they had the most liked image on Instagram, which was an animated tree that said, "every like plants a tree" or something like that. Sometimes simple is best.

These brands' ability to walk the walk gives them the green light to talk the talk. They're showing the world that business can be a force for good, and this is how you do it. It's possible to make a profit while considering and protecting the environment. 


Q. What does the future of influencer marketing look like to you? 

I think we'll continue to see the value of micro-influencers. Years ago, when you heard the word influencer, you probably thought of someone with millions of followers, but people are finding more specific niches that a small but mighty group of people want to see. People with smaller but more devoted followings can have a huge relative impact compared to people with larger followings. There's a level of trust, and followers feel like they know the influencer, especially if the influencer responds to comments and finds other ways to interact with their followers. 

AI is starting to become incorporated into so many things, and I see it becoming an integral part of influencer marketing. It's starting to be used to pinpoint the right influencers for the right brands, and we can harness technology to better understand which influencers our intended audience like and listen to. AI also can help us find relevant content and trends to make sure we're maximizing engagement. 

Related - Sustainable Influencer Marketing: A Growing Trend You Wouldn’t Want to Miss





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