It’s hard for green businesses to effectively market their efforts. As we’ve been tracking on this site, there are a lot of businesses engaged in “greenwashing;” that is, gliding over the actual environmental work being done or misrepresenting a company’s green footprint.
Even if companies do not deliberately greenwash, they can still fall victim to a myriad of green marketing sins: presenting information that is too complex to understand, presenting information that is too oversimplified to show effects, or simply failing to connect their green efforts to their potential customers.
The fact is that it doesn’t matter how green your business is. You can’t do good in the world unless you simultaneously do well: you need to run a successful business first, and a green business second. Only then will you sell large enough numbers of your locally-sourced, minimally-packaged, low-footprint products to actually make a difference.
With that in mind, here are a few more green marketing tips for savvy businesses:
Trends Will Change. Plan Marketing Accordingly.
Right now, key green marketing buzzwords are “locally-sourced,” “free-range,” “low-footprint,” and “alternative energy,” among others. 30 years ago, however, everyone was talking about the “3 Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle) as well as “saving the earth.” If you’re committed to being a green business, keep in mind that trends are going to change.
For example: a lot of businesses like buying vanity phone numbers from services like Custom Toll Free. This is a fantastic marketing technique, because phone numbers like Papa John’s 877-547-PAPA and AT&T’s 1-800-CALL-ATT are instantly memorable. However, what if you’re the company who decides to announce your environmental efforts by snagging the number 1-800-LOW-FOOT? In 20 years, that phrase is going to sound as outdated as “information superhighway.”
The trick is to differentiate between taglines and slogans. A tagline is a phrase designed to stay with your business for its entire lifetime, like L’Oreal’s “Because you’re worth it.” Slogans, on the other hand, are developed for specific products or marketing campaigns – in this case, L’Oreal’s “Reveal your ideal skin quality.”
Build your business’s marketing on taglines. Build your product marketing and environmental efforts on slogans. That way, you won’t be the company stuck using the word “e-recycling” after everyone else has moved on, and you’ll be able to quickly adapt to new advances in green efforts.
The product still comes first.
As we noted above: you’re a successful business first, and a green business second. If your only selling point is that you’re environmentally friendly, you aren’t going to go very far. Everyone is greening their products these days, so you can’t base your entire business plan on “trying to be more earth-friendly than the other guys.”
Like it or not, you still have to create an absolutely outstanding product, one that people are eager to both use themselves and refer to friends. Yes, tell your customers how your product uses less petroleum than the other guys – but only after you create a great product.
Sometimes you have to educate your customer.
As Bloomberg Businessweek points out, it isn’t enough to tell people that your product uses less petroleum; you actually have to tell them why using petroleum is bad. You also have to tell them why using less petroleum benefits them, as well as the environment.
Remember a few years ago when dish detergent companies started announcing they were no longer using phosphates? And remember how most of us didn’t really understand what phosphates were, and why it was worth it to switch brands for what appeared to be a slightly less-polished clean? That was a clear example of failure to educate the consumer. Don’t let your company make the same mistake.
These are only a few of the hurdles you’ll have to jump as a green company, but they’re all important parts of your business plan and marketing efforts. Remember: to do good, you have to do well; to do well, you have to run a successful business.