A commitment to green marketing is a very important business consideration today. A renewed focus on all things green has become an integral part of business planning and marketing strategies. Call it a reaction to the turn of the millennium, when many folks started to think about apocalyptic predictions, and consider their legacy to possible future generations. Environmentalism was on an upswing before the Great Recession, subsided a bit during the economic recovery, then bounced back to prominence with the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day in 2010 and historic UN climate change meetings in Copenhagen. Now it is top of mind thanks to threatened rollbacks of environmental regulations and funding cuts aimed at the EPA, proposed corporate exploitation of National Parks and federal lands, and government-sponsored denial of climate change.
Of course, there are a few meteorologists who dispute that the earth is warming. They posit theories ranging from volcanic activity, the sunspot cycle, and outright denial of that human behavior has an impact on the planet, some claiming that the earth is actually cooling. Of course, there is a clear trend to ever-warmer global temperatures…
But most of the scientific climate community believes (particularly the climatologists, the Arctic, Antarctic and mountain glacier experts who track long-term trends) the evidence is clear that CO2 emissions will cause the Earth to warm to an extent that disrupts and harms society as we know it. They feel this is already happening at an alarmingly rapid pace, citing ice and glacier loss over the past forty years, rising ocean levels (as whole islands become inundated off the coast of India), and warming trends at both poles that have greatly changed habitats and affected a host of species. More recently oceanographers have joined in, sharing studies about ocean warming and a sea-temperature trend known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which may be concealing how fast the ocean is heating up… and rising.
A public trend toward responsibility
The governmental debate over global warming and climate change aside, there is another trend where more is happening than meets the eye.
Increasing numbers of companies and individuals are taking up the banner of ecology, greenspace preservation, species protection, recycling, and in general being more observant of all things natural. This is part of a larger trend to economy, thrift and common sense that seems to be overtaking the world as GenX and Millennials come into their own, and the acquisitive baby boomers slip through the python to their natural end—dust and gas (which, we believe, actually contributes to global warming). The advent of social media—and social criticism—also spurs companies to behave with greater social responsibility, since behaving irresponsibly can be rapidly and loudly brand-damaging.
Companies see this trend and are reacting accordingly.
Which brings us to the intent of this article. Second Wind agencies can make money and brownie points (or should we say “greenie”?) with their clients and prospects by providing them with recommendations for green programs and initiatives.
For a “green” marketing program to succeed for your clients:
It must fit the brand.
A brand is a promise you make to your customers and prospects. Whenever you propose green to your clients, make sure the basic promise or truth of the brand is clear. Good brand alignment with green practices makes green claims more believable and strengthens the core brand.
It must be truthful.
A brand must be truthful to succeed in today’s consumer-controlled market place. Critics are fast and enabled by the social web. A company’s green programs must be transparent and verifiable: greenwashers, beware.
It must not be frivolous.
Green is serious business to many people. Client programs must have some gravitas. Company commitment to more sustainable operations should drive green practices—and actions should be taken because this is the right thing to do, not just to increase profits or change brand perceptions.
How the agency gains a core competency
Most importantly for agencies, bringing forth green programs and initiatives for your clients helps to put you forward as a thought leader and innovator. Frankly, we think many companies are stumped when it comes to promoting themselves as green. Agencies that are knowledgeable and committed to green practices can guide clients to ways they can become greener.
Following are some examples of green marketing programs that clients and agencies have worked on together.
- IDtweet, an Orlando mar-comm firm, partnered with client Public Power of Danbury, CT, to plant 500,000 trees.
- Hickory Springs, one of the largest manufacturers to the furniture and bedding industries, in partnership with Steinreich Communications, LLC, sponsored the EarthCare Challenge, where contestants competed to win eco-friendly home furnishings by changing to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
- SOAP (Sustainable Organization Advocacy Partners) is a “creative communications firm specializing in architecting brands and promotions that activate sustainability and social justice.” The firm helped the Dogwood Alliance, an organization founded to encourage more sustainable industrial forestry practices, to influence the top US fast food companies to adopt more sustainable practices in paper use by creating an interactive website and public service campaign.
- Global agencies like Landor Associates, the global brand specialists, and Goodby Silverstein & Partners, do not have “green” units. Landor embeds green practices in all brand development and communications projects. GS&P embeds green elements where they seem appropriate, as with Häagen-Dazs’ honeybees campaign, and Hewlett-Packard’s “Dandelion” ad.
Green is more than a marketing ploy. Work to help clients find authentic ways to be greener in brand values and practices.