After demographically defining the respondents of the research questionnaire, the following chapters will help us interpret the results of the research while providing answers to our research questions:
4.4. Marketing Communication of Sustainable Fashion Houses
In the beginning, we focused on consumer preferences in connection with environmental issues while analysing the main reasons deterring the selected respondents from purchasing sustainable products. This will certainly enable us to properly determine the final recommendations while providing room for further research into this field. Other chapters of our paper will mainly deal with marketing communication of sustainable fashion goods which, despite the above-mentioned obstacles, may considerably enhance environmental awareness and eventually encourage consumers to purchase sustainable products.
In order to promote sustainable products (not only fashion), businesses have had to modify their marketing strategy to better communicate products’ ecological features. Brands and businesses have started to use the new terminology, such as “eco, green, natural, organic, sustainable, etc.” Nevertheless, these promotional messages do not always bear an explicit definition, i.e., they lack accuracy and a consumer does not always have proper information about the materials, production methods and processes that were implemented, etc. (Yan et al. 2012
). According to Debbie and Daniel Moorhouse, education is one of the best methods to attain evolution and promote changes across the whole fashion industry (Moorhouse and Moorhouse 2017
). Therefore it is important to note that the proper marketing communication of sustainable businesses highly correlates with enhanced environmental awareness of consumers. Communication of sustainability issues should be exercised through multiple communication channels, such as social media, websites, radio, offline communication tools, etc. Sustainable products need to be connected to a story that is likely to catch consumer credibility (Čábyová 2018
). Krajčovič assumes that effectiveness and viability of the advertising are one of the main criteria affecting the selection of a specific type of a medium that should be applied to a particular situation (Krajčovič et al. 2015
). In their research, Morgan and Birtwistle state that a lack of information about sustainable fashion is mainly caused by insufficient media coverage (Morgan and Birtwistle 2009
). According to Han et al., the target audience and the most effective forms of transmission should first be defined in order to set a proper communication strategy (Han et al. 2017
). We should bear in mind the following facts:
the general perception of marketing communication of particular subjects concerning sustainable fashion by consumers,
to what extent sustainable fashion should be communicated through the above communication tools/media,
in what form sustainable fashion should be communicated,
the need for higher interactivity among sustainable businesses and followers in the online environment.
Within our questionnaire research, we used the method of semantic differential to define the perception of marketing communication of sustainable fashion by consumers. Particular businesses were split into five categories: sustainable fashion businesses, mass media, social sites, websites/blogs and educational institutions. Figure 1
to define communication to a small extent and 5
for communication to a large extent.
clearly defines that the proper setting of marketing communication of sustainable subjects requires proper awareness and education of consumers even though we all understand this topic is hardly ever communicated at schools or educational institutions. Insufficient communication on the part of retailers or mass media is observed by the respondents themselves. As declared by Yan et al., sellers should use clearer and more concise messages when promoting environmentally friendly products as this might considerably boost consumers’ awareness and at the same time, make consumers want to change their attitude to a specific environmentally friendly brand (Yan et al. 2012
). In his study, Vehmas et al.
) also confirm that insufficient knowledge of sustainable fashion is often due to poor media coverage. The results of the research show that with regard to media space, consumers have not reported any considerable change in communication of sustainability over the last three years. On the contrary, higher interactivity has been reported on social networking sites, websites or blogs. The company website of a fashion producer plays a key role in the whole process of communication. One of the main advantages of using a web channel is the fact that it enables company information about sustainability to be directly posted on the website and make it available to their customers (Da Giau et al. 2016
). Alessandra Da Giau et al.
) points out that even if almost all businesses maintain their company website, it was not usually directly set up to communicate sustainability initiatives, but rather to support brand differentiation among consumers and promote e-shopping. Generally speaking, the graph points to a lack of communication efforts on the part of educational institutions. In our opinion, environmental education is the key to change. The graph shows a considerable absence of sustainability communication on the part of educational institutions and schools in Slovakia. Our statement is challenged by Emekci whose research declares that even if most consumers were aware of environmental issues, they would certainly not pay attention to everyday environmental challenges (Emekci 2019
). The results in Figure 1
indicate that further research into the issue of sustainability education through schools and educational institutions is needed.
We applied the same method (a semantic differential) to observe to what extent sustainable fashion should be communicated through the above-mentioned communication channels/media. According to the results carried out by Strähle and Gräff
), the most essential tools of sustainable fashion include various digital platforms of social media, mobile apps, blogs or online communities. These communities can be defined as social innovations enabling transformation towards a more sustainable society and development.
According to the respondents and on the basis of the results of the research we carried out (Figure 2
), social media are seen as the most effective communication tools for sustainable fashion. They are one of the most fundamental transformation influences of informational technologies for entrepreneurship, within one entity or beyond its borders. They have triggered a revolution in many different ways in which businesses relate to the market and the society, thus creating a new world of opportunities and challenges across all business aspects ranging from marketing to finance or human resources management (Sinan et al. 2013
). These days, social media provide complex opportunities for direct communication between a sustainable subject and a prospective consumer. This environment contains various interactive tools reinforcing the relationship between the above subjects, building loyalty or boosting information literacy and most essentially—prospective consumers can obtain information directly from the source. Interactivity as a driving force and as a tool having a considerable impact on a prospective consumer is further described in Table 5
. Other recommended communication tools involve websites/blogs and influence marketing. We reported a slight stagnation in respondents’ perception through websites/blogs in contrast to the survey by Strähle and Gräff
). On the other hand, influencer marketing and celebrity marketing (promotion through famous personalities and celebrities) have both reported steady growth. According to Sudha and Sheena, influencer marketing represents the process of identification and activation of individuals targeting a specific audience or a medium for the purpose of boosting the reach of the campaign or product sale (Sudha and Sheena 2017
). The fashion industry is propelled, more than any industry ever, by influencer marketing. Influencers, famous personalities or celebrities are considered the driving force in the fashion market. Despite a lack of expertise or education in the given field, they tend to influence the buying decisions of consumers through their own personal opinion or preferences and consumers often admire them as specialists in the given field. Our research suggests that the respondents prefer social events, workshops, events or offline marketing communication, but to a much smaller extent.
Based upon the results defining the recommended extent of use of communication tools/media by the respondents in the communication of sustainable fashion (Figure 2
), it may be assumed that Generations Y and Z are reachable mainly through social sites or in the online environment. They favour entertaining and interesting forms of reception of new content and they like to be actively engaged in its creation. This phenomenon has also been captured in Table 5
which defines the need for higher interactivity among subjects promoting fashion sustainability as well as among followers and prospective consumers. The respondents tend to prefer active internet communication on the part of sustainable subjects or the opportunity to be asked or ask questions. To a large extent, they prefer participating in content creation or having the opportunity to use their own hashtags in posts about a sustainable subject. Active communication on the part of sustainable fashion designers or answering respondents’ queries may also contribute to enhanced awareness of consumers in this field. The results in Figure 2
showed which communication tools should be used to promote sustainable fashion to Generations Y and Z. The information and the form of its communication to a consumer is, nevertheless, a key part of each communication strategy (Table 6
In his study from 2018, Fritzell pointed to the fact that Generation Y was considered a lazy generation. Therefore, businesses that wish to deliver some messages or information to this generation need to do so in an amusing manner because most users go online just to have fun. According to Fritzell
), social media users prefer videos because they require less energy and therefore, these have to be communicated in an amusing form to avoid rolling up the content. Within our research, 45.3% of the respondents prefer not only funny communication but also the combination of educative/informative, entertaining or shocking communication. When sustainable fashion is communicated, all the above forms need to be aligned. Education is of the utmost importance if we wish to motivate people to purchase sustainable garments. On the other hand, the young go online to search for fun and relaxation and therefore any form of education has to be creative and original. Last but not least, it is necessary to highlight the disastrous impact of the fashion industry on the world, which can be effectively done only through shocking and critical advertising.
4.5. Summary of the Results
In this chapter, we resume summarising the above research questions providing important conclusions and contributing to the given research objective. For the environment, Generations Y and Z are the main game changers but not only in the fashion industry. These changes and transformations of consumer behaviour, which substantially contribute to environmental pollution and corrupted morals and ethics in the fashion industry, cannot be attained without modifying the communication of sustainable subjects. Fashion and its communication strategy have always been a step ahead (Borboni 2019
). According to Dabija et al. generation Z prefers to purchase products from companies that apply sustainability principles and attempt, by means of social campaigns (Dabija et al. 2020
).“Communication of sustainability”, as described by Morsing and Schultz
), can be defined as a set of strategies and subsequent processes which play a key role in communicating information about the company’s environmental and socially responsible behaviour with the aim of influencing, supporting and improving the company image to all the parties involved and end-users. Nowadays, every business, including fashion designers, should notify the public and consumers of its environmentally friendly and sustainable activities by combining various information media channels.
RQ 1 To what extent are the selected members of Generations Y and Z interested in sustainable fashion within their general interest in environmental issues?
Thanks to our research, we managed to specify not only the general sphere of interest of the respondents in sustainable fashion but also to set appropriate communication tools and marketing communication of sustainable subjects. Consumers’ interest in environmental issues is mainly influenced by the long-term reception of information or pressure the central authorities exercise on districts or municipalities, such as recycling of consumer goods and elimination of plastic packaging and products. According to our results, sustainability in the fashion industry is the third most discussed sphere of interest of the respondents (33.9%) despite the fact that the fashion industry is the second most polluting business in the world.
RQ 2 Is the price a decisive factor in the purchase of sustainable goods by consumers from Generations Y and Z?
As shown in the research, the high price of sustainable fashion garments seems to be the one and only reason deterring consumers from buying these types of products. Price as a decisive factor was further observed by Vehmas et al. in their article named Consumer attitudes and communication in circular fashion based upon which we aimed to observe the state of the issue over the last three years. The analysed study had a qualitative character and therefore no quantitative information about consumer behaviour was obtained. The article methodics consisted of interviews (5 respondents), research through the online platform Owela (50 respondents) and workshops with internal and external project partners (33 respondents). One of the key aspects observed in the above interviews was the price the respondents regarded as a decisive factor of sustainability when deciding to purchase a specific product. We reported continuous stagnation compared to the results of our research involving 428 respondents. However, it is noteworthy that price as a decisive factor is more or less limited by the borders of the Slovak Republic and the economic conditions arising herein. Therefore, this finding cannot be generalised.
RQ 3 To what extent is fashion sustainability properly communicated by educational institutions?
Environmental awareness in the fashion industry, apart from the necessary education of consumers, may be accomplished through proper marketing communication of sustainable subjects.
The change in consumers’ perception and behaviour goes hand in hand with their education in the field of fashion sustainability. Education provides unlimited space for starting the change we need to see in the world. Education is closely linked to the perception of the price of sustainable fashion goods. Consumers need to understand that the price of sustainable garments reflects ethically paid workforces, human and environmentally friendly production, quality, material, and marketing, etc.
RQ 4 Are social media still regarded as a suitable form of communication of sustainable fashion?
In their article “The Role of Social Media for a Sustainable Consumption”, Strähle a Gräff primarily focused on social media. One of the key findings of the above research is defining eight roles of social media affecting sustainable consumption in contrast to former research in the given field. The most significant and beneficial chapter in our research deals with the use of various digital platforms of social media in order to attain effective communication. In 2017, when the study by Strähle and Gräff was carried out, the most powerful tools of social media included mobile applications, blogs, Instagram or swaps and communities sharing clothes or other goods. Marketing communication of sustainable fashion brands targeting consumers from Generations Y and Z, as demonstrated by the results of our research, should also benefit from the space provided by social media, websites/blogs as well as promote cooperation with influencers or famous personalities. Influencers, famous personalities or celebrities are nowadays considered the most powerful agents in the fashion market despite lacking education in the given field. The proper interactive marketing communication of sustainable subjects should involve active communication through various communication tools provided by social media, such as the opportunity for followers or prospective customers to comment on questions or their active engagement in marketing campaigns by means of various hashtags (#secondhandislove, #sustainablefashion a pod.).
RQ 5 Is an entertaining form of communication of sustainable fashion still regarded as adequate?
Our studies have observed several fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour and respondents’ preferences over the last three years. The research by Fritzell
) is regarded as a starting point, as the author focused on social media as a communication channel of fast fashion producers who tend to use social media for promoting their own sustainable products. The author used a qualitative observation method by means of semi-structured individual interviews with selected respondents of Generation Y. The study also defined a suitable form of communication of sustainable subjects to be applied to social media. The results of this qualitative research point to the fact that Generation Y is said to be a lazy generation and consequently, businesses which intend to communicate various messages and information to this generation have to do so in an amusing way as most users perceive social networks as a place for having fun. The research also defines a certain shift in the above field as the selected target group prefers not only an entertaining but also an educative/informative or even shocking form of communication. They do understand that this global ecological problem cannot be dealt with only amusingly, but, quite the contrary. Due to the seriousness of the situation, people need to be aware of the catastrophic consequences of their unconscious and comfortable lifestyle.
The results of our research suggest that sustainability should be described as a continuous concept that needs to be adapted to educative and marketing standards (Kong et al. 2016