When the term green marketing first started being used in the 1980’s and 90’s, the definition was selling products or services based on their environmental benefits.
Today, there’s more to it.
First of all, there are two groups to recognize when considering green marketing strategy:
1. Green/Social Good Products and Services: Usually an existing product/service category that was made healthier for people or the planet and launched on a social good platform.
Eg). Level Ground – fair trade coffee Patagonia – outdoor clothing and gear
2. Regular Products and Services: All the other products and services that weren’t initially launched on a social good platform
Each needs different marketing strategies.
In the green/social good group of products and services, green is a given. If you’re marketing to the approximately 5 to 15% of the population who buy green, then they’re comparing you to other green products in that category. These people tend to be more knowledgeable about social good topics than the average consumer. Your marketing messages have to explain why you’re the best of the social good products in your category. Alternatively, you can position your products against brown products so that you stand out as green.
In either case, you also have to demonstrate the benefits of your product or service. After all, no one wants to buy products that don’t work.
If you’re aiming your green products outside of eco-buyer market, then you have different issues to overcome. Early green products weren’t always effective. Foods sometimes tasted bad. Green products became pigeonholed as more expensive than their non-green counterparts. People became leery of buying green. Even though a lot has changed, the stigma remains.
Originally, if you delivered a regular product or service, you wouldn’t need to be thinking about green marketing strategy. But that’s changing fast.
People are pushing companies to be transparent and accountable for their environmental and social impacts. They’re saying, ‘we want to buy your stuff and feel good doing it, so you better get your green and social act together.’ As a result, more and more companies are exploring sustainability and CR strategies and tactics and making improvements.
As a company, you want to communicate about your social good actions. In fact, research suggests that those companies who don’t are losing out on important opportunities to connect with stakeholders – opportunities which affect your bottom line.
Still, effective communication about your green actions can be a challenge. Public trust of corporations is at an all-time low. Some companies who jumped into the eco-ring early on did more greenwashing than actual improving – creating a general distrust that still lingers today.
The information you need to communicate is sometimes complex. Knowing how to convey it without sounding as though you are talking down to people is essential.
I’ll leave you with a few tips:
• Recognize the various nuances of communicating green
• Avoid any perception of greenwashing. Don’t overstate your sustainability efforts. Demonstrate rather than tell people how sustainable your company is
• Strategize effective communication for your company’s social good efforts. Identify the audiences for your sustainability communications. What information will be meaningful to them? How does that relate to what’s meaningful to your company and brand?