There are probably as many definitions of eco-marketing as there are people talking about it. I am pretty down to earth when it comes to sales and marketing. I like simple, honest concepts that work for small businesses.
So, do I have a definition of eco-marketing? Sort of … to me eco-marketing is understanding the new zeitgeist we find ourselves in — one where sustainability is taking an increasingly important role in consumer decision-making — and through this understanding, tailoring our company and its products and services to make them more attractive to today’s green-aware buyer.
Whenever there is an economic downturn, many companies start to cut back on their promotional activity: advertising, association fees, entertaining. But is this the right strategy? I think not. It is highly unlikely that promoting yourself less is going to increase business — that’s counter-intuitive. This is not to say that you shouldn’t rethink what you spend on marketing and how you spend it. That’s where green marketing comes in.
We are all under increasing pressure to be greener in everything we do. Some of us are lagging behind, but many more consumers are embracing everything green so, rather than cutting price, why not consider building green value into your products or services?
Green seems to be somewhat recession proof — most people are still buying the pricier green option despite the economy. In fact, a Harris Interactive survey recently showed that 73 per cent of people surveyed reported they are buying green, and only eight per cent said they had reduced their green spending due to the economy.
Many industries are embracing this movement toward sustainability and literally embedding green into what they sell. A good example is the construction industry. It is difficult to find a new project that isn’t green. Programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a green building rating system, and western Canada’s Built Green program market the benefits of buying resource-efficient buildings, which use environmentally friendly raw materials and practices. In this industry, if you are not marketing your green credentials, then you are, without question, at a significant disadvantage.
Royal Roads University is an outstanding example of this move toward living and breathing green with its well-publicized goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 50 per cent by 2010 and to eventually go grid positive. While not overtly a marketing strategy, it is hard to believe that this is not a factor considered by many potential students when deciding where to spend their educational dollars.
So, how do you adopt the new green marketing reality? Here are a few ideas that might help stimulate your creative juices.
Repositioning what you sell — You may not be inherently green, but there may be a way to reposition what you sell to highlight its green credentials. Take BMW’s Mini, a fun, sporty, and chic car but, today, the fact that it is also economical has become an integral part of the marketing message. BMW has also announced an all-electric Mini. It’s only a pilot project in California at the moment with 500 vehicles being made available to individuals and corporations to see how it copes under daily driving conditions, but think of the marketing value of this great repositioning of an existing product!
Giving green status — We all like to be first with a new product or concept. Think Apple iPhone or the mini laptops that recently swept the country. Green status is the same but it comes from being able to promote one’s “greenness.” As I type this, I am wearing a Go Local – Go Green t-shirt promoting a local green initiative. On the back is a list of sponsor companies.
The Mercedes Smart Cars are another example of green status: people who drive them are proudly declaring how eco-friendly they are. Companies use them for marketing because they are not only talking points but also come laden with green credentials.
The question is: what’s the point of being green if no one notices? Give your customers a chance to demonstrate how green they are. Think reusable shopping bags or provide eco-friendly alternatives to the products and services you offer.
Status stories — With green status comes the ability to tell stories and spread the word. People like to tell stories, so give them a chance to tell the story of the products that you sell.
Many of us have been buying fairtrade coffee for some time and feeling good about it, but now a company called Crop-to-Cup has gone one step further by allowing you, through their website, to meet the farmers that grew the coffee you are drinking. Meet 55-year-old Sam Kauka from Uganda and watch a video of him explaining why he loves his farm and why his coffee is so good. The company will soon enable its coffee drinkers to actually network with the farmers directly.
Marketing your product or service by creating a story around it and highlighting its green credentials will keep you ahead of your competitors.
Promote your use of sustainable raw materials or green packaging — There are two restaurants on the West Shore that have embraced this concept. Smoken Bones, owned by Ken Hueston, uses local green products and eschews any unnatural flavours, preservatives, or additives. Mike Spence, co-owner of Cross Roads Bar and Grill, also markets the fact that he uses local products. These two owners are members of the Island Chefs’ Collaborative, an organization with a mission to create a sustainable local food and agriculture system. Consumers are starting to look deeper into the products they purchase and want to see products and services where eco-friendly is more than skin deep.
Be generous with the green stuff — At Seattle airport, owners of electric vehicles can recharge their cars free of charge. As these forms of transportation become more common, this may be a wonderful marketing initiative for companies that have large car parks. IKEA in Copenhagen offers bicycles with trailers to enable customers to get their flatpacks home. Think about what your company could offer to help your customers in their green efforts.
Support or align yourself with green causes — Not all of us are in a position to make our product or service more eco-friendly, but we can all corporately support green causes. Look at local, provincial, national, and even international green organizations that you might logically align yourself to. You’ll be surprised how much fun it might be, how much good it will do for the planet, and how much it might positively affect your bottom line!
My ultimate great new green idea, discovered while researching for this article, is a new font. How on earth, I hear you say, can a font be eco-friendly? Well Ecofont was developed by Dutch communications company SPRANQ and was designed to save you money on those annoyingly expensive inkjet cartridges that always run out when you are on a deadline and in the middle of an important print job. The Ecofont is like Swiss cheese (sorry to switch countries on you) — it has holes in it. Like all groundbreaking ideas, Ecofont is based on a simple premise: how much of a letter can be removed before it becomes difficult to read? Well, as it turns out, about 20 per cent — that’s how much less ink you will save when adopting Ecofont (www.spranq.eu).
Just when you think that you have got on board with all this and done enough to prove your green credentials, the goalposts will move. In the near future, it will not be enough for companies or customers to purely negate their effect on the planet, there will be pressure to over-compensate. Like Royal Roads University, the next generation of green marketers will be looking for ways to go “grid-positive”!