By Laura Briere & Bruce Mendelsohn
Consumers expect to double their spending on green products and services in the next year, totaling an estimated $500 billion annually or $43 billion per month, according to new findings from the 2007 ImagePower Green Brands Survey, conducted by WPP’s Landor Associates, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates and Cohn & Wolfe.
The survey also found that consumer perceptions of green continue to change according to various collective definitions and contribute directly to buying decisions.
Green marketing is the responsible way to market your products/services by using technology, conservation and minimizing waste. If you haven’t started green marketing, the information below will help you on your way.
Going green, after all, is just a matter of changing your perception from focusing only on “tried and true” to the creative “let’s try something different.” What used to work still can, but the modern green revolution has opened up a whole new realm of opportunity for new marketing.
Some examples of great new technologies include blogs, social networking, e-newsletters, and online advertising. These complement the “tried and true” methods of public relations, cause marketing, viral marketing, and other activities that leverage the power of the media, word of mouth marketing and human interest.
The easiest way to get started with green marketing is to take a step back from your business and perform a brief green marketing audit. You should already have many of the answers, but it’s in your best interest to ask yourself again and step outside of your comfort zone. You may find it beneficial to consult a qualified marketing professional who can help expose you to a whole new world of green marketing options.
Create your green marketing plan:
- Perform a market analysis and establish your “ground.”
- Where is your company in the market?
- What is your competition doing?
- Segment your business offerings by “who buys what.”
- What do your customers have in common?
- Are you offering too much?
- Are you trying to be everything to everyone?
- Determine your product/service market.
- Is it priced appropriately?
- Does it cost enough? Too much?
- Identify your core “green” messages.
- What green messages are you trying to convey to your customers?
- What is the basic POINT behind your messages? (Note: These are NOT your taglines
Outline what your core green “brand elements” should be/are.
- What does green marketing specifically look like as applied to your company?
- How do you want your customers to perceive your green marketing initiatives?
- Determine if your web site is in line with your marketing objectives and target markets.
- Is it up to date?
- Does it offer the latest technologies?
- Can you manage it yourself?
- Is it up to the highest standards in technology?
- Can you leverage the latest and greatest tools in new media?
- What can you change?
- Align your “green marketing plan” with your overall marketing objectives and target markets.
- Where possible, use metrics to align the two plans.
- Does your green marketing plan take advantage of the latest technologies?
- Can you manage it yourself?
- Determine the promotional areas in which you can get really creative/green.
- Can you leverage your commitment to green to help you spread your message?
- Which segments are going to care about your green marketing efforts?
- How much money can you save?
- How much money can you reallocate from previous methods to green and new freed-up opportunities?
Plan for feedback.
- How do you plan to get it?
- What will you do with it once you get it?
With so much focus on green marketing, many companies try to hop on the bandwagon by launching green initiatives that are in essence “greenwashing” or “green sheen.” These terms are generally used when companies spend significantly more money or time advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than investing resources on genuinely environmentally sound practices.
Consumers are increasingly knowledgeable of the difference between “real green” and “green sheen”; companies that invest resources in the latter risk significant negative PR when their greenwashing efforts are exposed.
In December 2007, environmental marketing company TerraChoice gained national press coverage for releasing a study called “The Six Sins of Greenwashing,” which found that 99% of 1,018 common consumer products randomly surveyed for the study were guilty of greenwashing. According to the study, the six sins of greenwashing are:
- Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics that contain hazardous materials. 998 products and 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.
- Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,” but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.
- Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde (see appeal to nature). Seen in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.
- Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.
- Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.
- Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or “environmentally friendly” pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claim
Laura Briere is CEO & Founder of Vision Advertising, a marketing communications firm based in Worcester, MA. She is also head of the World Green Business Association.