We’ve heard the rumors, read the blogs, and saw the headlines that said Green Marketing is dead. To me, that was good news. We certainly do not need another man-hugging-polar bear commercial cut loose on the airwaves. I guess marketers figured out no one buys an electric car to save melting ice caps. They buy it to save themselves from melting down at the gas pump.
So here’s the thing. What’s dead in green marketing are those first attempts that made big fat assumptions that people would choose the environment over their own needs. Like saving money. Like providing healthy food for their kids. Like growing stronger plants.
The good news is green business is still alive and well. According to a recent Big Green Opportunity Report, green industries are experiencing far faster growth than their conventional counterparts across the country. These businesses are steadily grabbing market-share from non-green businesses, and consumers continue to flock to the other side where the grass truly is greener. It’s true, green is still a niche market, but with super savvy marketers that position themselves beyond green, we will see more and more market share.
So you want to smarten-up your green marketing? Here’s how.
Fire the Choir
You know who they are. As a matter of fact, you might be one of them. So get over it. Hurray if you are driving a Prius, buy veggies from a co-op and swore off parabens years ago. That puts you in the top 7% of consumers. And that puts you in the choir.
The truth is green is for everyone. You may know that. But 48% of the population doesn’t. This is where good messaging comes in. So instead of leading your marketing with a green halo, dig in and find the common denominator in your brand. One great question to ask is “Why bother?” Meaning, why would your target market(s) bother buying your stuff? What’s meaningfully different about it? How will this make their life better, easier, more fulfilling? When you get down to that level, to the core messages, then the green part can be the tipping point in your direction. We all want to do good. We all want to breathe clean air. We all (well, most of us anyway) want to protect our environment. Let green be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.
Quit Saving the Planet
A recent Google search for the phrase, “Saving the planet one [whatever] at a time” revealed more than 17 million responses, with everything from saving the planet “one flush at a time” to “one hanger at a time” to “one bag, one shower, one burger, one carpet, one idea…” You get the idea.
But if we’ve learned anything in the past five years of tumultuous economic activity, it’s that saving the planet one “whatever” at a time doesn’t work. Not only do consumers have a serious case of “green fatigue”, many are pinching pennies and carefully deliberating every purchase.
Instead, make green a part of the story, not the whole story. That means you can’t just tell us what you’re not, you need to tell us what you are. Green doesn’t just have to do good, it also has to work well. Only the most zealous greens among us will sacrifice product performance for ecological advantage (yes, that would be the choir).
So what does all of this mean when trying to make your green message heard and translated into sales? It means you have to stop saving the planet and start crafting messages that are relevant to the fate of the people living on it.
Take Method for instance, a biodegradable soap company that is dominating its industry, and not because of its size—at roughly $100 million annual revenue, it is barely a drop in multi-billion-dollar household cleaners sector. Rather their ingenuity and willingness to think outside of the green marketing box has helped to redefine green messaging altogether.
According to one of their founders Adam Lowrey, “We don’t really think about the green consumer as a single type of consumer. There’s a little bit of green consumer, or a lot of green consumer, in everyone…we use this phrase, ‘Making it selfish.’ It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek but what it means is if you can make sustainability part of the product that you’re selling, and then make the product better for all of the other reasons that they buy it – convenience, price, value — then you’re creating a layer of reasons why that consumer would want to buy that product.”
Enough of Us vs. Them
There is nothing more destructive to the whole green movement than separating the so-called good guys (environmentalists, activists, green businesses, etc.) from the bad guys (corporations, capitalists, conservatives, etc.). After 10 years entrenched in green marketing, I have seen enough barbs thrown at “them” – and where did that get us? As polarized as our government, that’s where. I must confess, I too took shots in the early days. But like a one-night stand, it feels good in the moment, but leaves you empty in the morning.
The truth is we’re all in the together. We can learn from the big boys, without compromising our vision and values.
For instance, even with all its corporate flaws did you know that Wal-Mart is the fifth largest user of clean energy in the U.S., according to a ranking by the Environmental Protection Agency? And recently President and CEO, Mike Duke, announced that Wal-Mart is significantly ramping up their renewable energy to 100% by 2020. That’s’ right, 100% renewables. We all know the bottom line for Wal-Mart is always the bottom line. They figure this, along with other commitments, will save them over 1 billion dollars in energy cost. However, this move is equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road. So let’s stop demonizing “them” and start dialoguing instead.
Green Marketing 3.0
The green market is estimated to reach $1 trillion in the next five years. If you want to be part of that growth, you have to be as smart as the big boys, and as aware and authentic as the consumers you want to reach.
So stop preaching to the choir, and start singing to the crowd. What’s your song going to be?