A recent article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out how well Method and Seventh Generation did last year with their more expensive, but green, products, in spite of a recession. The companies are even coming out with even more aggressive campaigns in 2010 that leverage their green approach. And companies like Whole Foods, Burt’s Bees and Lowe’s offer up something many consumers are seeking: eco-sensibility.
But is going green/eco-friendly something you can leverage with your business?
Make sure you’re really green. First of all, saying you’re green for green’s sake in marketing and advertising (a.k.a. greenwashing) is a huge no-no. Few consumers take things at face value, but if you don’t live up to the claim, you’ll pay in terms of customer boycotts, a tarnished reputation and worse.
BUT if you feel like you’ve got a green orientation in your business, it’s a great way to differentiate yourself with one caveat: You need to be on par with your competitors in other facets, such as price, quality and performance. If being green is as much a part of your brand as a warm welcome into your business and one-on-one service, incorporate it.
Analyze what you’re doing that’s green, then prepare to market it. Being green in and of itself is not enough. Don’t simply toot your own horn on recycling, re-purposing, re-using, and other “re’s” you’re doing for the “greater good.” Drill down the message to the individual with benefit-oriented results consumers are seeking. Focus on the personal impact rather than just the global impact. These might include:
- Products that are good for me health-wise (such as cleaning products, foods, skincare, organically grown foods, low-VOC paint).
- Products that are good for me budget-wise (appliances that save on energy usage)
- “Feel good” efforts as using/selling materials made with recycled content, business cards made with recycled paper, soy-based ink in the printers, etc.
The ultimate in a benefit-focused message is one that shows how a product or offering is ecologically friendly + economically friendly + efficacious (it works!). That is a major score on the marketing forefront. Don’t simply report what you’re doing; share why you’re doing it with clear, focused marketing messages. Take the opportunity to educate the consumer on the benefits of certain eco-sensible practices, whether it’s using re-usable bags instead of plastic or buying purses made out of re-purposed jeans. Don’t be like Whirlpool, who promoted their CFC-free refrigerators and didn’t sell many because consumers didn’t know what CFCs were.
Never settle with the status quo, either. Identify where you can become greener with manufacturing (raw materials, suppliers, processes, product disposal and recovery), service (suppliers, office practices, communications, office space, employees), etc.
Use green marketing. I mentioned your brand above. Is your green undertaking one in which you’re promoting the green attributes of your products and services, or have you embraced environmental responsibility as a core company value? Once you know that, update your Web site, business cards, brochures, newsletters, signage, ads and other marketing to reflect that. Don’t be remiss in bringing your employees into the loop; staff absolutely need to be engaged.
A word of caution about stretching the reality in your green marketing – don’t. In 1992, the FTC established the national standards for green advertising, called the “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.” While these are currently under review and do not have the force of law, they do assist the FTC in interpreting Section 5 of the FTC Act. This act broadly prohibits unfair or deceptive acts of practices as they relate to environmental marketing claims. The guidelines are common-sense in nature and state, in not so many words, that green marketers should:
- Make truthful, clear, understandable and substantiated claims that are not exaggerated, unfair, misleading or deceptive. It’s not enough to say you are green; you need qualifying language on HOW you’re green.
- Make claims that are clear on whether they relate to the product, the packaging and/or the company’s practices.Make claims that don’t exaggerate.
- Make comparative environmental claims the make a basis for comparison clear. Instead of saying a washing machine is 30 percent more efficient, say 30 perfect more efficient than washing machines in 2006.
About Dana VanDen Heuvel and The MarketingSavant Group
In essence, we do thought leadership marketing. We help you create great content, sound process, and leverage emerging technology to lead your market. We use classical marketing techniques and a whole lot of passion, inspiration and ideas from our years of B2B marketing and sales experience and our huge library of over 1000 business, marketing and philosophy books.
I formed MarketingSavant to work with ethical, intellectually challenging, innovative and particular clients in the Business-to-Business sector. Our approach and our philosophy are to always put altruism before capitalism. We do well by doing good, and we like to work with clients who share our philosophy.