By Mae Lee Sun
Inside Tucson Business
Published on Friday, August 22, 2008
Consumers are becoming more savvy about green issues. Al Gore and the support of Hollywood movies like “The Day After Tomorrow” and “WALL•E” might have something to do with it. Not to mention the decades of efforts on behalf of pioneering environmental organizations and growing scientific data that suggests we have no choice but to pay attention.
It’s no surprise then that when a movement becomes popular enough, corporate America takes notice. At least when it comes to turning the language, icons and products of it into marketable commodities as was done with the counter culture of the 1960s.
More recently, in the past decade, images drawn from yoga and Buddhism were used to sell to more niche consumer products from soft drinks to hip cars — items associated with an enlightened sense of being.
Now that ‘green’ has emerged as the next big trend in selling, it’s hitting the market hard, having widespread appeal and can be found in a range of mainstream advertising.
As examples, Wells Fargo has printed the words “Go Green” on mailing envelopes of mortgage statements encouraging customers to switch to online statements to save trees. The Boston Red Sox, who along with a Major League Baseball Team Greening Advisor, established initiatives for the first time this past Spring, that include installing solar water heaters at Fenway Park and launching the Poland Spring Green Team who pick up plastic bottles from fans between innings. And BP changing its name from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum and chose University of California Berkeley as the host of its Bioenergy Sciences Institute to research clean energy alternatives.
While no one was really expected to abandon their religious beliefs and flee to an ashram in India or a Zen temple in Japan after drinking a nirvana-powered soft drink, the corporations as well as consumers of this century are expected to embrace the green trend in both principle and in practice. But navigating through what exactly “green” is and how to integrate the principles associated with it into advertising and marketing campaigns can be tricky.
So what’s an aspiring green business to do?
Here are eight tips to get started:
• Become fluent in sustainability.
Understand how it relates specifically to your product or service as well as in the overall scheme of doing business. If you aren’t aware, your customers won’t be either.
• Educate your customers. Marketing firms have indicated the green consumer typically likes to be shown the practical value and benefits of what is being offered and why it’s worth a higher price. The marketplace is too competitive to merely label your product green and expect it to sell. Take the ‘Energy Star’ branding as an example of success.
• Use clear language that conveys a positive image of your product or service. Niche specific or ambiguous terminology might turn off the average consumer.
• Be wary of sending contradictory messages and ‘green washing.’ Are you advertising your company as ‘green’ with little to back it up? Are you endorsing environmental causes merely to boost your company image? If so, you’re likely to be found out by environmental watchdog and activist groups, causing a public relations nightmare. Note the recent public apology Goodyear had to make after making false environmental benefits claims about its Eagle LS2000 tire on its Australian website.
• Highlight environmental progress and programs your company has in the works. Companies of all sizes have become popular models of corporate excellence for the environmental/sustainability initiatives they have in place. Some examples are Google, New Belgium Brewery and Tucson’s own Brooklyn Pizza.
• Invite consumers into the dialogue. Help them to help you become a responsible business by asking for their feedback — not just on the product but on how you do business. Consumers want to know whether you’re socially responsible too.
• Network with other green-based businesses. Green business alliances are being established in many cities and are becoming certified as green by entities such as the American Consumer Council in San Diego, which lets customers know you are an environmentally responsible corporation by issuing a recognizable logo.
• Don’t rely on the green wave to last forever. Green it if you mean it. Offer the best product available because it makes sense and if you want everyone to benefit in the long term.