Green marketing


Although environmental issues have long affected marketing practices, especially in Europe, their relevance has increased in the last decade or so. With the well-publicized Earth Day activities in the Unites States in April 1990, the “green marketing� movement was born. An explosion of “environmentally friendly� products and marketing programs appeared as firm after firm tried to capitalize on consumers’ perceived increased sensitivity to environmental issues.

From a branding perspective, however, “green marketing� programs have not been entirely successful. For example in 1994, Philips Electronics NV branded its eco-friendly, energy-saving fluorescent bulbs as “Earthlight.� Due to a lack of sales success, the product was repackaged in 2000 as convenient, seven –year life “Marathon� bulbs, and sales grew steadily at 7 percent annually. Faced with slumping sales, Ben & Jerry’s dropped its “Rainforest Crunch� flavor of ice cream, introduced on Earth Day in 1990 to tout conservation and nuts from rainforest trees. Despite a concerted marketing effort, Green Mountain Energy has found it difficult to sell electricity from eco-friendly power plants.

Many other marketers tried and failed with green sales pitches over the last decade. What obstacles did this movement encounter?

Ø Overexposure and lack of credibility. So many companies made environmental claims that the public became skeptical of their validity. Government investigations into some “green’ claims (e.g. the degradability of trash bags) and media reports of the spotty environmental track records behind others only increased consumers’ doubts. This backlash resulted in many consumers thinking environmental claims were just marketing gimmicks.

Ø Consumer behavior. Research studies have shown that consumers as a whole may not be wiling to pay a premium for environmental benefit, although certain market segments will be. Most consumers appear unwilling to give up the benefits of other alternatives to choose green products. For example, some consumers dislike the performance, appearance, or texture of recycled paper and household products. And some consumers are unwilling to give up the convenience of disposable product such as diapers.

Ø Poor Implementation. In jumping on the green marketing bandwagon many firms did a poor job implementing their marketing program. Products were poorly designed in terms of environmental worthiness, overpriced, and inappropriately promoted. Some ads failed to make the connection between what the company was doing for the environment and how it affected individual consumers.

To get around these obstacles and make sure environmental initiatives are implemented, some companies recommend relying on the efforts of a “Green Champion�—an environmental who works internally to make companies greener. Jean Palmateer, an environmental engineer, is a “green champion� for DePuy Orthopaedics, a division of Johnson & Johnson. She recommends getting broad goals accomplished by personalizing the issue. For instance, when Palmeteer wanted to keep the medical device makers’ waste water tanks clean, she told workers that better maintained tanks would not just help the earth, but save them from 3:00 A.M phone calls when the tanks failed to discharge . Now the tanks are cleaner and workers are sleeping better at night.

There have been some notable green marketing successes through the years. Chevron’s highly visible “People Do� ad campaign attempted to transform consumers’ negative perception of oil companies and their effect on the environment by describing specific Chevron programs designed to save wildlife, preserve seashores, and so on.

McDonald’s has introduced a number of well-publicized environmental initiatives through the years, such as unbleached paper carryout bags and replacing polystyrene foam sandwich clamshells with paper wraps and lightweight recycled boxes. McDonald’s received the EPA Waste Wise Partner of the Year award for waste reduction efforts:

1. Conserved 3,200 tons of paper and cardboard by replacing sandwich containers with single–layer flexible sandwich wraps.

2. Eliminated 1,100 tons of cardboard materials that would have been used for shipping by switching to light drink cups

3. Resulted in spending $355million on recycled content products.

In India even some hotels and retailers announce that theirs are eco-hotels or eco packaging or ‘non-plastic materials’ used etc. The green marketing is now well understood by the consumers and this is going to stay as well as patronized.