What is ‘regenerative marketing’?

Tazo’s latest campaign focused on regenerative practices could signal the next marketing sustainability trend.
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Illustration: Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Photos: Tazo, Simon McGill/Getty Images

· 5 min read

In Tazo’s latest TikTok campaign—produced by creative agency of record, Edelman—the term “regenerative” is thrown around quite a few times, referring to the tea company’s farming practices, as well as the video production.

But in the context of marketing, what does “regenerative” actually mean? According to the video, the goal was to produce it with the smallest environmental impact.

But experts say regenerative marketing must do more than just reduce impact, which is often the focus in corporate sustainability. Instead, it requires leaving a net-positive impact on the environment and local community.

Regenerative, meet marketing

The term is more popular in the context of regenerative agriculture. While there are no definitive standards, the NRDC says the farming practices involved are “meant to restore soil and ecosystem health, address inequity, and leave our land, waters, and climate in better shape for future generations.” Tazo’s campaign was for the company’s new line of teas grown and farmed using regenerative practices.


“It’s our job as creatives to get [Tazo] credit for all of that work, and, in this context, to do it ideally in a way that lives up to those same regenerative principles,” Eden Feducia, VP and creative director at Edelman, told us.

Feducia said this was the agency’s “first foray” into regenerative practices. Edelman has previously faced criticism for its work with fossil-fuel companies.

For this ad, the team decided to shoot outside without AC or studio lighting, plant flowers instead of using props, skip craft services to cut down on food waste, and hire local workers to cut down on flight emissions. To help those involved, they also provided childcare on set.

“It sets the bar a little bit beyond the sustainability goals that we’ve seen over the last few years and really pushes us to think about how our business can actually restore the land, the soil, the communities that we interact with,” Feducia said.

She said Edelman plans to adapt certain practices from the campaign, like limiting travel, in future campaigns.

Defining moment

Jay Friedlander, professor and founder of the sustainable business program at College of the Atlantic, has been getting the word out about regenerative marketing for years. He told us he defines it as being a positive force for communities and the planet while building a brand.

“There’s a million different definitions out there,” he said, adding that with a regenerative campaign versus an eco-friendly campaign, “you are actively pursuing and creating healing versus just being less bad.”

But without a set definition, he said it can be “murky” to define a threshold for what is actually considered regenerative and what verges on greenwashing.

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Examples of regenerative campaigns Friedlander has observed over the years include a billboard that purifies the air by Peruvian university UTEC and L.L. Bean’s sponsorship of Acadia National Park’s free bus line. While the latter runs on propane—which emits carbon— Friedlander pointed to reduced car emissions, increased access to the park for locals without public transportation options, and decreased noise as ways the initiative still falls under the regenerative bucket.

Big picture, he said, is it’s about rethinking how money in the industry is used to give back: “If you think about this globally, like the billions that we’re spending on marketing, are those dollars actually going into helping to rebuild communities or restore the health of the planet as part of that process?” he said.

In the case of the Tazo campaign, the company said in the video it would use its TV budget to donate $1 for every TikTok view up to $250,000 to the Rodale Institute, a nonprofit focused on organic farming. Edelman confirmed in an email that the money given to Rodale will be used for “education, farmer training, and research in regenerative organic agriculture” and will be donated by the end of the year if it doesn’t surpass the 250,000 threshold. Since going live on August 9, the video has about 12,000 views.

Next (re)gen(erative)

“Sustainability has a lot of negative connotations, which is, ‘We’re going to stop this and cease that,’ whereas regenerative sounds a lot like, ‘We’re going to stop this and create that and grow this.’ It’s a different kind of feeling,” Tom Savigar, founder of Avansere, a consultancy that specializes in regenerative marketing, said.

While Tazo’s ad seemed to capture that optimistic spirit, Savigar said there were a few things that could have been more transparent about the net-positive impact of the campaign. For example, although the ad promises “adequate wages” for farmers, it’s not totally clear what that entails. “I think some of that language might have been good to put in there to say, ‘You know what, this is the normal thing to do. We’ve gone above that,’” he said.

Savigar said he also wishes he could see more data quantifying the impact from the campaign.Still, he said, the campaign gives him hope that regenerative will become more talked about as exposure increases.

While he worries about greenwashing becoming more likely as the term “regenerative” becomes more popular, Friedlander said that “would also mean at that point, it’s a growing trend and probably a lot of people are trying to do it well, which is what I would prefer.”

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