Green Marketing Not Over, Just Misdirected

Filed under: 1sdn,Green Marketing | |

jazzfuneralThis post rebuts the assertion made by Joel Makower that Green Marketing is dead or over. It suggests that green is not being marketed in the best manner; making the point that companies seeking to market their green products and services should focus on selling their products instead of making the consumer feel like their purchases is a cause, charity, public service or a sacrifice that they they need to make.

by Carolyn Parrs & Irv Weinberg, Mind Over Markets

Joel Makower of GreenBiz.com just declared that green marking is dead, or in his words, “Green Marketing is Over.” To quote Mark Twain, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” I think the same can be said of green marketing.

Here at Mind Over Markets, we’ve been saying for years that green marketing messages have not been communicated correctly and effectively right from the start.

The first task of green marketing, like all other marketing, should be an analysis of benefits. First to the consumer, and then to the planet. Too many opted for the latter, save the planet, as though you could with your cleaners and your pizzas. That never made any sense to me and it never will.

When Nissan Leaf used a polar bear hugging a man in their commercial instead of laying out the many advantages of EV’s to me and my life, when they don’t position their vehicles as personal benefit producers, when they don’t tell me what’s in it for me, then yes, green marketing is over.

When organic food isn’t positioned as better for your health, better tasting, fresher, more local and ultimately more enjoyable, no wonder it’s hard to justify the higher costs. The success of Whole Foods is probably based more on their gourmetness than on their greenness. They have the recipe right and continue to succeed.

The last time I saw a green marketing obituary it was centered on the failure of Organic Ragu Sauce. As though any organicite or foodie was going to buy Organic Ragu or Organic Heinz Ketchup. That wasn’t a failure of green, but a failure of logic. When the largest manufacturers of caustic and corrosive cleaning solutions suddenly turns green, its no wonder that consumers scratch their heads and wonder if it’s real or just a mask.

When Kimberly Clark tells us they they’ve done “green right” instead of telling us that recycled paper is a better, saner way to make napkins and toilet paper than destroying old growth forests, no wonder we yawn and walk away.

To my mind, it’s not the failure of green marketing, but the failure of green marketers to have thought it out long enough and strategically enough to hire true green marketers and visionaries who actually understand not just the heart of green consumers, but the minds of the greater population.

Instead they wheeled out Kermit the Frog and melting icebergs. They should have been selling their products to me instead of making my purchases seem like a cause, charity, public service or a sacrifice that I have to make. By the way, you can’t actually save the planet all by yourself.

To read more on how it is the value proposition of green that needs emphasis see our related post: “Focus on Value Drives Growth in Green Consumerism“.

Talk about naive. At a time when people aren’t sure they can save themselves, much less the planet, is it any wonder that kind of thinking or marketing is on the endangered species list?

What’s saddest of all is that all the so called “green experts” failed in their expertness when they didn’t alert marketers that they were on thin ice right from the beginning. When they didn’t understand the balance of message, the need for benefits, and the need to tell consumers that they were not only doing what was right, but what was smart.

It really is a shame that the lemmings will watch the green hearse go by and help drive green even further off the cliff. That others will continue to not only sell, but tell things wrong and then lament the passing of one of the most significant opportunities to actually make things better for all of us.

– Irv Weinberg

Read what Jacqui Ottman says in her post “Green is Alive and Kicking”.

About the Authors

Irv Weinberg is a nationally known marketing and advertising executive with more than 30 years in senior management at America’s best-known advertising and marketing agencies including Young & Rubicam, Wells, Rich & Greene, Jack Tinker & Partners, Lintas and Grey Advertising. As a principal and co-founder of Mind Over Markets, Irv has helped many green businesses and initiatives achieve outstanding and sustained success.

Carolyn Parrs is a co-founder of Mind Over Markets. For many years, she has helped businesses and organizations find their way to the hidden nuggets in the green market. Carolyn is a Certified Marketing and Business Coach and works one-on-one with entrepreneurs and executives internationally.

Irv Weinberg and Carolyn Parrs, are co-authors of the forthcoming book The Tao and the How of Green Marketing.


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Author: carolyn_parrs (3 Articles)

Carolyn Parrs is a co-founder of Mind Over Markets, a dedicated green marketing communications and design firm. For many years, she has helped businesses and organizations find their way to the hidden nuggets in the green market. Carolyn is a Certified Marketing and Business Coach and works one-on-one with entrepreneurs and executives internationally. She is also the co-author of the Green Marketing Blog, an exploration, explanation and exposition of what you need to know to successfully market your green product or service. Carolyn and her partner, Irv Weinberg, are featured authors in Thomson Reuters’ book Inside the Minds: Greening Your Business. Her current clients in the green space range from natural, personal care products to solar and wind power, organics, green cleaning services, eco-friendly lawn services and garden products, non-toxic paints and home décor products, educational instiutions, pet food, and more.

  • http://theobviousrevolution.blogspot.com Bruno Slewinski

    Green Marketing could not be dead, but it’s not well. I agree with Joel’s argument that the focus of Green Marketing is too restrictive. Needs an upgrade, and for that is has two choices:
    1. It upgrades itself with a broader focus and objectives.
    2. The upgrade would be Sustainable Marketing.
    I have written 3 post with different arguments on my blog (theobviousrevolution.blogspot.com), if you care to comment, feel free to do it.

  • chris ducey

    Hi Carolyn,
    Of course Green Mkt. is not over Bruni kind of touched on it with the upgrade to “Sustainable Marketing”
    i.e., the meme shift from green to sustainable and more importantly from Consumer to Sustainer.
    I must say this title… http://greeneconomypost.com/focus-drives-growth-green-consumerism-13334.htm is at least an oxymoronic one. Consumerisim is how we got here and that word in and of itself should be as dead as a dodo in any serious writings henceforth.

    So how to shift the grand meme of consumer to sustainer is the challenge…I have some answers I’m to that problem that I am working on. I’ll keep you posted as I get closer to launch.

  • http:www.linkedin.com/in/patrickjcomer Patrick Comer

    Irv, Thank you for following up on your initial response to Joel’s article. It was clear to me from his article that he was missing the point of his own argument: basic marketing concepts were being ignored. Selling the “save the planet” message will not work with consumers who have their minds on their grocery bills and their mortgages. Green marketers need to get back to selling consumer benefits and helping them to make smart decisions for themselves first, and then allowing them to see the added benefits to the planet with their “right” choices.
    Patrick Comer
    Sensible Science in Service to Business Leadership

  • http://www.seesawcreative.com Jeff Lukes

    Thanks for the great article. I was just having this same conversation with a friend who sells small, energy efficient devices such as lighting, etc. He found that the people he thought would be his best customers—people who are inherently “green”—were oftentimes the most hesitant. Only when he fine tuned his message to be more “benefit” oriented did he get a decent response…and not from the people he expected. The people who are his best clients are liquor stores, gas stations and the like. Not because they want to be “green”—they couldn’t care less—but because he demonstrated a quantifiable benefit to them. I’m not sure this is ALWAYS the best strategy, but when marketing to the general public it certainly resonates more. It very much depends on what the goal of your communications are and who your target audience is.

    Thanks again!

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