It's Too Easy Being Green

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

The jury is in on green marketing: it doesn’t work

Although unpleasantly glib, the 2008 BrandJunkie Survey of consumer opinion revealed that nobody really believes the environmentally-friendly branding claims of most companies. This is after such traditionally "green" businesses — you know, like oil and car companies — have spent many millions to brand themselves accordingly.

Many more businesses have at made passing, sometimes half-hearted attempts at green marketing, from adding glossy green logos to programming (Universal will likely fell more trees and burn more coal propagating its consciously ‘green’ programming), to Whole Foods recently announcing that it will no longer offer plastic shopping bags (begging the question of whether producing and maintaining cloth bags is, over time, any more environmentally responsible). 

For that matter, some consumers have decided to green their own personal brands, especially those who trade "carbon credits," (as if a market-based transaction actually lowers the aggregate emission of harmful pollutants). 

Clearly, there’s a lot of desire on the part of consumers to do whatever they can to painlessly (and without any additional expenditure) improve the lot of the planet. It’s also legitimately important…no, it’s vital…to earth’s future. So it’s not surprising that companies want to jump on this bandwagon, and give them what they want.

But consumers have spoken: marketing probably isn’t the way to do it. 

Few purchase decisions are made on the intangibles of creative marketing on the subject, no matter how brilliant or heart-tugging it might be. No poster-child LEV, token investment in a greenspace, or banning of paper cups in the employee cafeteria will change the fact that people know better.

I am so struck by this disconnect — between the faux answers of green branding, and the real challenge of sustainable business practice — that I’m moved…to express myself in song…

It’s Too Easy Being Green
(with apologies to a certain felt frog)

It’s too easy being green,
Spending each day hyping something untrue,
Claiming colors like brown, or grey, or at least puke or pus green
Would be a fairer, and more honest thing to do.

Company functions look happier if left unseen,
Storefronts and labels traditionally hide processes quite mean,
So people tended to pass you over
Until the web made every burp, poorly-crossed "t," and toxic byproduct
A visible star in the sky.

But green’s the color folks wanna buy,
It’s politically-correct and friendly-like.
And green can be a big selling op, like being funny,
Or important, like citizenship,
Or tall, like the rest of your brand promise.

When green is what you claim to be,
It makes your consumers wonder why:
"But why pollute?"
"Why exploit?"
If your brand is green,
Maybe it’s something your business should be, too?

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