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.

Let's Kill Kermit the Frog

Kermit the frog in circle and slashOn a whim, I just typed “It’s Easy Being Green” into Google.

It came up with 91,100,000 results.

Compare that to “horses” at 84,800,000; “Super Bowl” at 36,500,000 and “sexy babes” at 13,300,000.  It even outpulled “Barack Obama” (74,700,000.)

Today’s marketing scene is like an overgrown jungle populated by troops of monkeys all parodying Kermit the Frog at the top of their lungs.  “We’re Green!” might have cut it 10 years ago, but not today.

Being boring is the cardinal sin of advertising.  How many times can you hear references to  “It’s Not Easy Being Green” before you want to strangle the monkeys that uttered them?  Same goes for insipid statements like “XYZ company cares about the environment.”

Big deal.  It’s time to kill Kermit and focus on stuff that really speaks to your customers – or at least entertains them!

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.

Sorting Through the Kaleidoscope of Green Consumers

While it seems everyone says they’re interested in going green, the word means widely different things to different people – or sometimes different things to the same person in different situations.

I’m a painter as well as a writer, and it’s always seemed to me there are more shades of green than any other color.  Not only that, but shades of green vary more in their psychological impact than other colors.  Think about how you react to a deep forest green versus olive, grass green, sage, mint or shocking lime.

So when I read the recent blog post by Jane Tabachnick on the incredible diversity of Green consumers, I found myself nodding my head.  She compares them to shades of green paint – an apt description indeed.

“Green” has become such a trendy hot button  it’s hard to put your finger on it.  While it seems everyone says they’re interested in going green, the word means widely different things to different people – or sometimes different things to the same person in different situations.

For example, my hybrid Honda Civic gets 50 miles per gallon.   So when I’m comparing my gas consumption to my friends’  I feel pretty good about it.  But after all, I’m still burning fossil fuel when I drive it.  And if I ever find myself driving when I could have ridden my bike, it really gets the guilt gears grinding in my head.

Same product.  Same consumer.  Different situation = different conclusion.

It all depends on the context. And that’s what copywriters need to be aware of when writing copy for green products.

You’ve got to figure out what shade of green your particular prospect is wearing, and tint your copy to complement it.  If you’re writing to hard core Greenies like myself, be sure you’re not saying something that’ll trip the guilt line in their heads.  Or worse, anything that sets off the humbug alarm.

But for a more mainstream audience just beginning to think green, you’ll want to make sure your product doesn’t come off as too far out.  (Honda knew this back in the early 2000’s when they first came out with their hybrid.  Their tagline was, “You don’t plug it in.”  Kept it within the realm of the known.)

Bottom line:  do your research, and know your prospect!

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.

Marketing with a medium as old as dirt (and as clean)

Dirt and water usually lead to nothing but mud. But for clients of the Dutch advertising company Green Graffiti, mixing the two could be a recipe for profit. Whether or not you can ever see yourself hiring Green Graffiti to blast your logo onto sooty sidewalks, it’s food for thought. Many people are critical of advertising efforts as a waste of resources. What other creative ideas can we come up with that get the message across without leaving dirty footprints?

GreenGraffiti
With Green Graffiti, a business can spray their logo around while performing a public service.

Dirt and water usually lead to nothing but mud.  But for clients of the Dutch advertising company Green Graffiti, mixing the two could prove to be a recipe for profit.

Green Graffiti uses pressurized water to blast logos and simple ads onto dirty city sidewalks.  The result is an attention-getting message with minimal environmental impact.  In fact, it actually makes the sidewalk cleaner.

The company’s been around since 2006 but is just beginning to make waves in the U.S.  Earlier this month, Domino’s Pizza had their logos sprayed on the sidewalks of New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.  They even turned the event into an interactive experience:  the first 250 people who turned in photos of the logos won a $15 gift certificate for a pizza.  (A challenge for you – and for me:  How can we take our next great marketing idea and make it even better?)

Whether or not you can ever see yourself hiring Green Graffiti to blast your logo onto sooty sidewalks, it’s food for thought.   Many people are critical of advertising efforts as a waste of resources.  What other creative ideas can we come up with that get the message across without leaving dirty footprints?

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.