Green Marketing 101
My peripheral involvement in John Grant's forthcoming book The Green Marketing Manifesto has exposed me to many initiatives and a lot of clever ideas. It also made me see the similarities of the problems in green and geek messaging.
Accordingly, I revamped my previous marketing primer in order to address green issues. I’ve kept the headings largely the same because I feel that marketing is marketing regardless of your sector.
1) Marketing is not a department.
The greenness of your business must be integral – it cannot be a promotional add-on. Everybody has to take responsibility for your corporate greenness because perceived under-delivery evokes a greater consumer backlash than in other areas.
2) Marketing is a conversation, but most people don't speak green.
Successful green marketing must translate the initiatives of the converted into the needs of the agnostic. You may know how to distinguish between green, sustainable and socially responsible, you may even consider it worthwhile to do so. But that doesn't mean your potential customers do.
3) This does affect you.
Green marketing is not a niche but an increasing concern of customers in all sectors. You need both to address the greenness of your existing business and to develop the new business model that will meet the changing priorities of those customers.
4) Think what, not how?
Think of the "product" in terms of what it achieves, not how it does it. Provable gains not nebulous concepts. Socially responsible behaviour is not a difficult idea to enunciate, yet carbon footprints and sustainability are concepts predicated on technological aspects not the actual function. Long words confuse and confusion bores.
5) Think will, not can.
Think of the "product" in terms of what most people will be happy doing with it and not in the myriad possibilities it offers. There is an element of sacrifice in the changes you want to elicit. Don’t overstep the mark in terms of how much people are prepared to shift away from their current behaviour. You can’t market a revolution, but you can market constant evolution.
6) Only you RTFM.
The true science of green is both complex and controversial and far beyond what the average user wants or needs to know. What is important is that your claims are genuine. They will initially be taken on trust, but false promises ("greenwashing") will be found out and viewed as far more heinous than, for example, overstated broadband connection speeds.
7) Education is marketing.
Expensive, over-produced advertising may be visible but supporting low-level educational initiatives is much more likely to be effective. Do you want to grow your sales by shifting a few more units to the converted or do you want to grow the market?
8) You're not marketing to people who hate marketing.
Some zealots equate capitalism with anti-greenness and marketing with capitalism; but they’re in the minority. Green thinking is ultimately rooted in self-preservation and self-actualisation both of which have great current appeal. People want your information and your alternatives.
9) You're not marketing to people who hate hippies.
They're not barbarians, but nor are they ecologists - that's what you're paid to be. Their confusion is derived not so much from ignorance or indifference as much as information overload. So make the gains clear, the contradictions minimal and the incentives obvious.
10) Marketing demystifies.
The sense of a green tipping point is in the air but while there is less cynicism in the green sector regarding what can be achieved, there is far more cynicism about how companies will attempt to deceive. So it is all the more crucial to facilitate the conversation to encourage consumers to utilise more and more of your greenness. Get it right and you’ll be talking both socially and corporately about snowball effects that are not doom-laden warnings.