Green Marketing vs. Marketing Reality

Posted on August 5, 2008

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We will now return to your regularly scheduled Gen XYZ marketing programming… (BTW, JetBlue responded that I truly help them make better business decisions.  Glad I could help, but my apologies for exposing you to that rant.)

Yesterday, I mentioned an article in Brandweek listing Gen Y’s favorite “green” brands.  Some of the winners are no surprise.  Whole Foods ranked at the top of the list, Trader Joe’s was a close second.  Some of my favorites, Aveda, Zipcar and IKEA were also recognized.  Here’s where marketing comes in.  There are probably brands that are far more “green” than those recognized on the Brandweek Top 15.  However, in the minds of the Gen Y survey respondents, there aren’t.  Why?  Because these companies are effectively positioning themselves as “greener” than the competition.  Everyone knows, for example that Whole Foods encourages customers to shop with reusable bags, IKEA charges for plastic bags and Aveda lets you pay less you less when you recycle. 

Is there more they could do to help the environment?  Sure.  Do they need to do more to convince consumers?  Apparently, they have that covered.  Don’t get me wrong.  I commend these companies for the small steps they’re taking.  I’m doing the same thing in my own life – making small, but sustainable changes that lead to a bigger and bigger impact as time passes.  The other great thing?  Shopping with these “green” brands and making small changes in my personal life has led to increased environmental conscientiousness all the time. 

Which leads me to this article in BusinessWeek about the long road CEOs face as they look to embrace environmental awareness and sustainability.  Here are my favorite points:

  • “the average company will receive only the smallest “halo effect” fromsincere efforts to become more environmentally sensitive. Why? Becausesincere companies will be surrounded by charlatans falsely proclaimingtheir own virtue.” 
  • “be prepared for the media backlash against green. The initial coverageof a subject always creates an expectation of huge breakthroughs in anunrealistic time frame. This is always followed by a period of silence,which is then always succeeded by stories of disappointments.”

I hope for my generation and the next that even as “green” media coverage and over zealous marketing efforts subside, we’ll remain aware and active in our efforts to decrease our environmental impact.  I would like to be part of the generation that drives, and finally makes a measurable change.  Is part of that marketing?  Yes, and in fact, I think it’s the best place to start.  As I’ve said before (and as the Brandweek article proves), we’re a generation that’s been preconditioned to respond to marketing – for both products and worthy causes.  Just look at how those “this is your brain on drugs” commercials worked out.

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