“Green Up” your Marketing Campaign

Last month, we told you ways to “green up” your business. This month, we’re taking things one step further and telling you how to market your company as green.

Have a recycling program? That’s green. Use green cleaning supplies and LED lightbulbs? That’s green, too. If you’re one of those companies using an alternative fuel source for your fleet trucks, you might as well be able to say your business is green.

While implementing green practices into your work environment may be easy, successful green marketing is not quite as easy as it seems. And it turns out there’s more to being eco-minded than simply being mindful of the environment. There are a number of experts and entrepreneurs out there who have implemented successful green marketing strategies that work. In a word: green only yields green when messaging blends transparency, practicality and savvy.

Are Your Customers Seeing Green?
Marketing your business as green is a great idea—provided your customers will respond positively to the idea. One luxury hotel went green and then learned the hard way that their customers did not respond positively to the idea at all.

The hotel, located in California, relied heavily in their marketing that they had received the Platinum status from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. While environmentalists and green-obsessed journalists touted the hotel a hit, customers found it to be a miss. Travelers associated green to mean grungy and austere, and they booked their accommodations elsewhere.

Once the hotel changed their marketing strategy to convey that they put luxury first and going green second, bookings went through the roof almost overnight. So the lesson here is this: never assume everybody is ready to hop right on the eco-friendly bandwagon.

What Green Means to You
Green means different things to different people so take caution when describing your business as “green.” It could summarize, in one instance, a warehouse powered by solar energy. In another, it could signify the existence of a telecommuting program that helps reduce a carbon footprint. It is in your company’s best interest to be honest and to clearly define what going green means to you.

More and more, as the need for preserving the environment seeps into the American consciousness, the layman is becoming extremely environmentally savvy. So when a company doesn’t live up to its eco-friendly claims, those consumers can become disillusioned when that company doesn’t live up or when it doesn’t explain how it’s eco-friendly in the first place.

Personal explanations and insights work best. Post the story of how you came to be a more green-minded company on your website. Bill and Jane Monetti offer personal insights on theirs for their company, Eco-Command, which produces GoFlushless, a spray that neutralizes the odor of urine and reduces the need to flush a toilet. The Monettis detail how the product was born out of necessity when they purchased a home in the environmentally sensitive area of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Substance Equals Abundance
The old adage, “Put your money where your mouth is” applies when going green with your company. No matter how well you define what green means to you and your business, there needs to be substance behind the marketing in order to make it work.

With the current economical climate such as it is, showing people how going green can keep more green in their pockets is the best approach. Even though going green is gaining in popularity, in today’s day and age, people still do not care about it enough to completely convert.

For the most effective green marketing campaign, address the “three Ps”—profit, people and planet, and answer the following consumers’ questions in order:
• Is it good for my budget?
• Is it good for my family?
• Is it good for the planet?

Interestingly enough you should avoid using the word “green,” and avoid incorporating imagery such as green leaves into a logo in green campaigns. Find another way to tell your company’s story toward delivering a targeted message, as using the word green and incorporating green imagery in your logo only serve to camouflage you as a brand set apart from the others in your industry.

Beware of ‘Greenwashing’
Marketing your company as green, without a doubt, has its benefits, but misrepresenting your company’s green-ness, which has come to be known as “greenwashing,” can be suicide for a company’s credibility.

Sigg is one major example. The Switzerland-based company manufactures reusable-bottles and told their customers that their products were BPA-free, when the opposite turned out to be true. The bottles contained the chemical in their liners. When news of this hit the media, sales dropped dramatically.

According to the 2010 Greenwashing Report from the TerraChoice Group, an environmental marketing agency based in Ottawa, Ontario, greenwashing is getting worse. More than 95 percent of all consumer products claiming to be green were found to commit at least one of the “Seven Sins of Greenwashing,” which include not providing evidence, being vague or flat-out lying.

The best way to avoid committing even one of those seven sins is to keep your message consistent and be able to support every claim with hard, conclusive evidence. Honesty, as always is the best policy. If you’re accused of greenwashing and there’s any trace of truth, it could be game over for your company in terms of green marketability.

Do Customers Care?
With businesses in just about every industry vying to market themselves as green, it’s natural to ask: To what extent do customers care? The answer depends on where you look.

Some data indicates that increasing numbers of Americans are seeking out green products; according to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales have grown about 20 percent per year over the last decade. What’s more, Wal-Mart, one of the largest big-box chain stores out there, is now the world’s largest buyer of organic cotton.

Still, when most companies gauge customers about what matters most to them, answers such as “green-ness” or sustainability frequently come in behind key issues like usefulness and price. And certain demographics appear to be more concerned than others with whether products are, in fact, green.

You’ve taken the steps to make your business more environmentally friendly, and it’s time to let your customers know it, too. Marketers are saying green is the new black. So what are you waiting for?

Story by Jade Acadia