BELIEVE IT OR NOT, environmentalism has been tied to marketing since the middle part of the 1970s. America’s economy was the undisputed champion of the universe and the advertising industry was steamrolling messages into the hearts and minds of a fairly recently captive audience when rumors of an oil shortage created a whole new wave of emotional marketing messages.
I still remember, sometime around the Country’s Bicentennial– and you might too– carrying a bright green lunch box with an ECOLOGY glyph on the side, marking me as a proud standard bearer in this new movement. I recall wearing warmer clothes to school as President Carter mandated all government buildings– even elementary schools– reduce energy use by setting thermostats low. I was there when the number one selling point for automobiles became fuel economy and, in turn, automobile advertising started to get greener.
It was a pale green at first and may have even become transparent during the 1980s but in the recent controversial years prior to Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize reception, green advertising and marketing achieved neon green ubiquitousness. Today it’s becoming fatigue colored as advertisers who were never particularly ecological in any way use green as a positioning device and companies restructure to offer green products and services.
There is evidence that the green marketing hype is turning consumers off. For instance, according to Appliance Design Magazine, consumer attitudes toward green products have changed radically. Consumers, the periodical reports, are becoming suspect of the banner of green and eco-friendly on products. Green product purchases have dropped about 20% from last year as consumers weigh the glut of green marketing against the hard costs of being green. Purchasing a green washing machine, say, may save some energy and nominally lower your electric bill, but how long will it take to recoup the cost? And if you’re just making the purchase to do the right thing, what about the energy wrapped up in the production of that new machine and disposing of your old machine?So some green angles may have run their course while others are just warming up as new companies launch with legitimate and ethical green business plans and marketing plans to support real ecological offerings. The problem, as I see it, is that every angle, every issue, every product service and brand is far more complex than a color.White isn’t a color at all but the absence of color, and green isn’t a brand but a lifestyle movement. It’s been said that when you have a steady diet of black, white can start to seem like a color. With the black news of climate change, green has started to seem like a brand to a lot of companies but consumers need something more. If your company has started using greener planks in its marketing platform you’ll need to exploit other positioning statements– subtler brand distinctions– as more and more competitors get green.In other words, when everything is green nothing stands out. As you leverage the colorful opportunities sustainable products and services can add to your offering keep blasting your core competency and key marketing points to sustain growth and stand out as your competitive universe gets greener and greener.