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Is Green Marketing Effective?

January 19, 2011

Until recently, green marketing targeted a niche audience. It slowly gained momentum in the 80s and 90s, but didn't find a mainstream following until the middle part of last decade. According to a June 2007 article (AdAge), media veteran C.J. Kettler noted that "nine magazine covers came out for the month of April in celebration of Earth Day," causing her to declare that "the tipping point {for mainstream attention to the green movement} feels like it's tipped."

For some, however, the green movement quickly became overexposed, and marketers wishing to capitalize on it seemed disingenuous. In December 2008, Kelly Hlavinka (COLLOQUY) wrote that, "While ... environmentally friendly ... marketing initiatives {are} admirable, our collective rush to jump on the green-painted bandwagon has a high potential for consumer backlash."

Ms. Hlavinka even used the same expression as Ms. Kettler, writing that "we're quickly approaching the green marketing tipping point" -- except she meant to say that, just 18 months later, it had begun tipping the other way. In fact, in a newsletter last year, we discussed some of our own recent green initiatives, and while many of you commended our efforts, some of you called it "phony pandering," and urged us to "leave politics out if it."

Does this backlash mean that green marketing isn't effective? Not at all. It simply means that it needs to be done right. As Ms. Hlavinka puts it, the key is finding ways to "build loyalty with your green-minded constituents without appearing desperate or opportunistic."

So how can you employ effective green marketing techniques? By learning from others: emulate the success stories, avoid the pitfalls. We've put together an eclectic group of green marketing resources, from case studies and expert advice to green WordPress themes:

  • Promote Green Hosting: Newsletter feedback aside, we've experienced a tremendous amount of success with our own green marketing efforts, and we've heard from many of you who've received overwhelmingly positive feedback after adding one of our eco-friendly badges to your websites.
  • Install Green WordPress Themes: Give your WordPress site or blog a green makeover; these ten WordPress themes are perfect for green businesses and environmental nonprofits.
  • Study History: Just last week, CBC's radio program, "The Age of Persuasion," explored the history of green marketing, examining what has worked in the past, as well as what hasn't. The program is 26 minutes long >>
  • Follow Five Simple Rules: Green marketing expert Jacquie Ottman, outlines her five simple rules of green marketing and highlights several case studies that put the "rules" in action, in this five-page .pdf article.
  • Tell a Story: In this September 2010 article, Shannon Arvizu points out that "Most clean tech marketing strategies lack a potent emotional or narrative component. Conventional green marketing {is limited to} facts or statistics ... {which} is not necessarily the most effective way of communicating the value of a green product to consumers."
  • Don't Forget "Regular" Marketing: In this June 2010 article, Beth Zonis reminds us that "it's important not to get too carried away with the green-ness ... of your offering, at the expense of explaining how well it solves your customer's needs."

Share your stories with us. Is green marketing something that can help your business? Have you had success with it in the past? Let us know >>

- 03/31/11 at 17:35 ET