Be Aware of These Four Cautionary Tips.
As we advance toward the 2020 election, climate change is rising to the top as a key issue. Following a year of record CO2 emissions and the largest year-on-year increase in seven years, it’s no surprise that more people are concerned about their impact on the environment than ever.
Brands that have already commoditized this trend are on the uptick. Nielsen recently reported that products with sustainability claims (think “fair trade,” “all natural,” “organic”) generally outperformed the growth rate of total products in their respective categories. Millennials are especially conscious consumers, with 90% willing to pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients.
It’s easy to assume that marketing the “green” qualities of your company or a specific product can only add to your success. The truth is, the path forward is littered with pitfalls which, if you are reckless or even the least bit clumsy, could damage your brand.
- Avoid greenwashing. This term was coined in the mid-’80s and is exemplified by Chevron who was airing commercials at the time about protecting bears and butterflies. It’s the sort of marketing and PR spin that makes you appear more environmentally friendly than you really are and induces an instant gag reflex in today’s conscious consumers. In short, being deceptively green will put you in the red.
- Think beyond the label. Yes, green consumers tend to be label-readers but they are also fact-checkers. Your audience will want to know what makes your product or company environmentally friendly and how you uphold quality. For example, if you claim certified-organic ingredients, give consumers access to details about the source of your ingredients and your quality control process.
- Know the FTC is watching. Remember the Volkswagen emissions scandal? That cost them up to $14.7 billion in fines, buybacks, lease terminations, etc. Much of this was driven by the FTC who regularly takes action against deceptive environmental claims (such as gas mileage). One of their goals is to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and substantiated. If you want to stay out of trouble, get to know the guidelines for the use of environmental marketing claims with “Green Guides” found at FTC.GOV.
- Prove your worth. Environmentally friendly product options are growing by leaps and bounds. Standing out among competitors and holding the attention of your customers will require authentic action. For example, Patagonia is giving away $10 million to environmental causes with funds gained as a result of a tax cut. They also used the opportunity to protest the tax cut which surreptitiously included legislation to open up the Alaska Wildlife Refuge for oil exploration and drilling.
If you can “walk the walk”, tapping into the growing base of conscious consumers is smart for your business and good for the planet. Just be sure to tread cautiously across the green landscape.