Greening Your Marketing…or Not?

McDonalds changing their background to green
McDonalds is literally painting themselves Green in Europe. Wise move...or not?

Are you starting to get the feeling you’ve entered the Emerald City?

The color green has begun to dominate the packaging, ads and websites of companies proud of their new-found committment to sustainability.  Even McDonalds is changing the background of their Golden Arches logo from Red to Green in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Problem is, it doesn’t always have the desired effect.

Sustainability is a complex and confusing issue.  Even those of us who make it our business to learn as much as we can about it often run into surprises and are forced to reevaluate our opinions.

It’s also an issue that hits the passion button for a lot of people –  in varying and often unpredictable ways.

Complexity, confusion and raw emotion.  It’s a recipe for risk.

Are you ready to go under the magnifying glass?

By default, whenever you call attention to your Green activities, you also invite  inspection of your entire operation.  And the greener the flag you wave, the closer you’ll be scrutinized.

For some companies, the risk may be worth it.  Take McDonalds.  Remember back in the 80’s when McDonald’s reputation as nemesis to environmental causes was second only to that of Exxon-Mobil?

The company has put quite a few sustainability initiatives in place since then, according to their 2009 Best of Green Report.  Whether or not McDonalds really is as green as they claim is still up for debate, but they’re obviously willing to argue their own case.  And they’re betting on the old adage that any publicity is good publicity.

While McDonald’s new color scheme may seem audacious considering the fact that they’re still one of the world’s biggest generators of waste packaging, my guess is that they’re targeting the large “middle sector” of Green consumers who want to go greener, but aren’t ready to give up conveniences such as quick hot food to go.  And McDonalds will likely succeed with their approach.

On the other hand, waving the green flag will only be effective for those companies willing to toe the line environmentally ever after.  According to market research firm  Shelton Group,

If you misrepresent a product’s green-ness — even unwittingly — consumers will clobber you. Our Eco Pulse study revealed that 40% of the population would stop buying a product if it had been advertised as green and the manufacturer was found guilty of environmental infractions.  And 36% would not only stop buying the product, they’d also lobby their friends and family to stop buying the product — which is a 31% increase over last year’s answer.

So should you highlight Green in your marketing?  That’s up to you to decide.

Consumers want to go green.  Many look to companies as leaders to help them along.  So if you choose to highlight sustainability as a major part of your marketing, realize that it’s a calculated risk.  And do it as any good leader would:  consciously and above all, with integrity.

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer specializing in helping Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into marketing, sales writing and sustainability, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

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