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THE FUTURE OF GREEN MARKETING
A Matter of Trust03
The biggest challenge in building a green brand is getting buyers to believe you.
BY CHARLIE WARDELL


A successful green branding effort can have big payoffs, according to marketing pros. “Branding green opens up a huge segment of the market, builds consumer, and reduces price resistance,” says Shel Horowitz, co-author of “Guerilla Marketing Goes Green.” He adds that the process of branding a green product is no different than that for branding any product. “It’s common sense marketing. It’s a coordinated campaign across many channels: traditional media, social media, advertising, your website, and a number of other things.”


But while the process may be familiar to any marketer, creating the right content can pose challenges. The biggest challenge is that buyers are less likely than ever to believe companies’ brand messages. While that skepticism is common among all buyers, it’s especially strong among the environmentally aware. “Green buyers see themselves as less susceptible to traditional marketing and advertising,” says Horowitz.


Perhaps that’s because so much of it seems designed to mislead. At least that was the conclusion of the fourth annual Sins of Greenwashing Report published in 2010 by TerraChoice, an Ottawa-based green marketing firm owned by Underwriters’ Laboratory. The report, which was based on an examination of 5,296 green-branded products –including 729 building and construction products–found that more than 95% of them made at least one false or misleading green claim.


Industry observers say that the prevalence of misinformation has hurt the green products industry. “People no longer assume honesty,” says Honey Rand, president of Environmental PR Group in Orlando. “If you wrap a product in a green claim, it better be true. If it’s not, it will eventually come back to bite you.”


That bite may come from the government. Cynthia Faur, a partner in the Environmental Practice group of Milwaukee, Wis., law firm Quarles & Brady, says the FTC has been cracking down on false green claims and slapping fines on offending companies. “For instance, if you claim to have 90% recycled materials, you better be able to substantiate that claim,” she says. “If you make [R-value] claims about windows, be clear what those claims apply to, whether just the glass or the glass and the frame.”


Green Buyer Psychology
Companies that are less than honest in their marketing also risk alienating customers. According to a recent report from Cone, a Boston-based branding firm, 71% of buyers say they will stop buying a specific product if it has a record of misleading claims, and 37% will stop buying all of the offending company’s products.


Manufacturers say that growing public cynicism is one of their biggest hurdles. “The more companies put out green messages, the less effective those messages become,” says Greg Colando, president of FLOR, a Chicago-based maker of residential modular carpet.


 


While Moen built its brand image on design and functionality, it has recently brought green to the forefront.


06.2011
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