Can awareness days increase your sales?

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From squirrel appreciation day to National Cat Herder Day – in the marketing calendar, there’s an awareness day for everything.

For sustainability-focused brands, World Environment Day (5th June) and World Ocean Day (8th June) are two of the major milestones.

But as a product-based brand, should you use them in your comms plan? 

And can awareness days increase your sales?

Here’s what behavioural science says…

Shoppers spend more on special days

A 2021 study found that consumers are more likely to make a purchase during promotions tied to special days.

Researchers found that the positive consumer response to special day themed promotions is essentially driven by consumers’ rewarding marketers for their creativity in providing a way to celebrate the special day.

But for this to work, promotions must be creative, appropriate and a good fit for the occasion.

Low fit can actually harm purchase intent.

So if you sell a plastic-free product and you run a special ‘plastic free July’ promotion with enough creativity behind it, you’ll likely see an increase in sales.

But if you’re just jumping on the World Ocean Day bandwagon because everyone else is, and your product or business doesn’t have any tangible links to ocean conservation, you might find it does more harm than good.

We see this play out when it comes to brand activism more widely too.

Brand activism can be good for small brands, but bad for big business

According to a 2020 study on D2C brands, small brands can gain market share by taking a stand on a divisive issue (72% in this experiment).

But large brands are more likely to lose market share if their customers are divided on the issue. 

(In 2022 Spotify experienced a major PR crisis and audience backlash from failing to understand audience segmentation).

And regardless of brand size, customers are more likely to abandon you than join you for your political stance (behaviourally we experience negative emotions more intensely than positive ones – it’s called negativity bias).

For brand activism to increase your market share, it must be seen as authentic. 

First mover advantage is important. Consumers are already sceptical of brands – if they think your political stance is inauthentic or a ‘copycat’ tactic, you’ll lose credibility. 

This can make awareness days difficult. 

If everyone in your industry is talking about the same cause, your consumers might think you’re just jumping on the bandwagon – and we’ve all seen the reputational damage this can do (just look at the number of brands accused of rainbow washing during Pride).

Time limited offers don’t work as well online

In an analysis of 10 previous studies, and 3 online and 2 field experiments, researchers found limited-time promotions (e.g. a 24 hour sale) to be highly effective at driving attention and purchase intentions in store (increasing willingness to pay by 10%) – but that they had no effect online.

Limited-time deals online can feel gimmicky and manipulative.

Other studies have found that scarcity tactics can anger customers – and those that miss out are 11% more likely to switch to a competitor.

However, people were 23% more likely to open an email with a limited-time promotion if it had a justification – such as an upcoming holiday, or awareness day.

What does this mean for your marketing?

While it can be tempting to use every environment-related awareness day in the calendar to show off your sustainability credentials, doing so may cause you more harm than good.

Talking too heavily about your purpose can trigger the attitude/behaviour gap.

People say they want sustainability from the products they buy, and even that they’re willing to spend more on it – but purchasing data doesn’t reflect this.

Behaviourally, price and convenience are always a higher purchasing driver.

And talking too heavily about your ethics, purpose and sustainability can attract high levels of engagement from well-aligned supporters – but harm your conversion rate if they aren’t your target customers. (Read our advice on navigating the attitude/behaviour gap here).

The Attitude-Behaviour Gap across 12 dimensions of sustainable purchase decisions

Awareness days can be highly beneficial to your brand – or they can become a reputation risk and damage your conversion rate.

Here’s our handy list of dos and don’ts to help you navigate these marketing milestones:


  • Know what you want to get out of the day and who your stakeholders are – if you’re getting involved to highlight charity or impact partnerships and generate PR, you might not worry so much about the impact on your sales. But if you’re trying to drive conversion, put your audience first and prioritise campaigns and offers that are creative, appropriate and a perfect fit for your brand.
  • Keep it compliant – the Green Claims Code covers any claims you make about your environmental credentials in any public-facing comms. Fines for getting it wrong can be 10% of turnover, so make sure you present evidence for any eco claims!
  • Position your offer carefully – urgency and scarcity can trigger engagement and sales when used right, but are also likely to annoy loyal customers who miss out. Make sure you use segmentation, reward your VIPs and manage your offer to avoid any backlash.


  • Try and do every awareness day just because you’ve got some sustainability credentials to talk about. Focusing too heavily on your impact harms your conversion, and awareness day promotions only work when they’re a good fit.
  • Be afraid to approach the topic with humour (where appropriate). The highest converting awareness day promotions work because consumers want to reward the marketers’ creativity, and humour has been proven to increase the effectiveness of advertising. Find creative, and funny, ways to make awareness days work for your audience – but make sure you keep it appropriate!
  • Forget your other stakeholders. While there’s market share to be gained if you’re a small brand taking a stance on a divisive issue, you need to make sure all your bases are covered to keep your relationships and reputation protected.

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