Economy prompts brands to show another shade of 'green'

Earlier this year, Seventh Generation, a Vermont-based manufacturer of green cleaning products, launched its new line of disinfecting wipes and sprays with an expansive, integrated marketing campaign that connects green with personal health.

Earlier this year, Seventh Generation, a Vermont-based manufacturer of green cleaning products, launched its new line of disinfecting wipes and sprays with an expansive, integrated marketing campaign that connects green with personal health.

The effort includes Seventh Generation's first national advertising campaign, in addition to a PR initiative.

"It was the critical time for us to share the kind of company that we are," explains Chrystie Heimert, Seventh Generation's director of PR.

Personal appeal
When the economy tanked last year, many marketers predicted Mother Nature would take a back seat to the economy. While green's demise didn't come, the hype surrounding "going green" has changed. Many green companies are now taking a more layered approach to their messaging to give consumers personal reasons to go green.

"People are making the connection between green and health and wellness even more now than in 2007," says Heimert. "We did find that they were less concerned by the polar bears and more concerned about what's happening within their own four walls."

She adds that one consequence of the green marketing trend of 2007 is a backlash to greenwashing and companies that exploited the issue by being too generous labeling themselves and their products as green. Even so, that skepticism has opened the door for some companies to make a broader busi-ness appeal to consumers.

"Our concern is that people might become cynical about green," Heimert says. "We want to make sure people know about our business and our business philosophy so they feel a sense of kinship and trust - especially because people are skeptical in this economy."

Clean versus green
Method, a San Francisco, CA- based natural household cleaners company, launched a laundry detergent in January that it positioned as green, as well as a budget value.

Method has positioned its new laundry detergent as smarter, easier, and greener - in that order, explains Katie Molinari, PR manager for the company. She adds that Method doesn't overplay its green angle, but rather buoys it with other benefits like cost savings and its "stylish" packaging.

"We never considered green to be part of our marketing message," she notes. Rather, Method tries to convey its green business practices, along with its natural ingredients.

Yet to differentiate Method from the ubiquitous "green" labeling, the company decided to carefully select its language around the topic now.

"We haven't seen a dip in demand for ethical products," says Molinari. "But I do think in 2007, the term 'green' was used so frequently that it became unclear what it meant."

Method started using the phrase "a cleaner clean" last year to clarify and strengthen the product's positioning in the green marketplace.

"It shows we're not just green because we put some lavender oil in our soap," she says.

Molinari also says the term "ethical" is becoming popular in the industry for certain products that have been green from "cradle-to-cradle," meaning from its production to disposal.

Mark Grundy, VP for CSR at Edelman, agrees that companies will be most successful now if they tie their green efforts to a specific cause or issue - whether that is personal health, sustainable business practices, or climate change. As the economy slowly recovers, saving money will also continue to be a recurring theme in green.

"For the next two years, it will be about saving money and energy more than an altruistic perspective," he explains. "But any company that says green is all over is making a big mistake. Green is now always going to be a part [of marketing] in a way that it wasn't before 2007."

Facts:

37,000
The amount of square feet devoted to electric vehicles and technology on Electric Avenue, an area which highlighted the decidedly green bent of this year's Detroit Auto Show in January

80%
of businesses plan to spend more on green marketing in the future, according to a January survey released by news site Environmental Leader 34%
of consumers in North America, East Asia, and Europe specifically look for and purchase green products, found a recent survey conducted by The Boston Consulting Group

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