What Shade of “Green” is your Brand?

With environmental concerns rising with gas prices, Matt Williams asks marketers to look their brands' shade of green and to brighten it.

Green Marketing

You can almost set your watch to it. Whenever there’s a spike in gas prices the world starts talking about the rise of “green marketing.”

It’s not hard to figure out why. High gas prices rekindle people’s interest in alternative energy sources. Add more frequent and dramatic weather events and the world wakes up, at least temporarily, to the need to pay attention to our impact on the planet.

Cue the marketers. At our best we set trends and meet market needs before they arise. At our worst, well…

Now that green is back at the top of consumer consciousness, we’re seeing the full spectrum. Which begs the question, what kind of green marketer are you?

Times like these reveal three approaches to green marketing. One is contemptible. One can be a good beginning. And one represents a powerful and enduring brand positioning. I bet you can guess which is which:

The Greenwashers

Greenwashers pursue a bastardized version of green marketing because they’re trying to cover their contribution to the climate crisis. You can spot them with their soft-focus visuals of kids and puppies running in slow motion through fields of daisies, or happy families sitting down to dinner in their bucolic suburban homes. And they’ll feed you language that sounds like it came straight out of a PR seminar. They won’t say anything of substance, but they’ll sound earnest if you don’t think about it too hard. These marketing head fakes divert attention from profit at the planet’s expense.

The Opportunists

These brands jump on the bandwagon when the issue becomes important to consumers but their commitment wanes when something else takes over consumer consciousness. Maybe they’ll change their ad campaigns or develop short-lived green products. But when trends change, their marketing focus will, too.

The Authentics

These brands talk the talk and walk the walk. They minimize carbon emissions, ethically source materials, practice fair trade, openly and continuously improve their operations, and enthusiastically support environmental causes with their voice, time, and money. Their cultures reflect pride in the planet, and profit goes hand in hand with protecting it. Authentically green brands like Patagonia and IKEA, for example, have carved out profitable niches of loyal customer bases who share their concerns and values. They stake their business on doing right by the planet, and many have found success. Others, like Walmart and UPS, may still have work to do to achieve their sustainability goals but they’re committed to getting there. They see this as a long-term effort, not a knee-jerk reaction, and are genuinely working toward a better approach. They deserve our support and encouragement.”

"Their cultures reflect pride in the planet, and profit goes hand in hand with protecting it."

What shade of green is your brand? Any other shades to add to this list? No matter where you land on the green spectrum, it’s never too late to brighten your hue. Even small steps will help brighten the planet’s future.

Ready to get started? Contact us, and let's talk about it. Check out my colleague Kelly O’Keefe’s sustainability branding primer in Forbes, too.

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