The Role of “Green” Marketing

25 Mar 2010|Kelli Peterson

I got a call last week from the Director of Sustainable Marketing practice in our Paris office. She was going to be speaking with a journalist at CB News (also French) on the role of green marketing in today’s advertising and communications. It got me to thinking.

The term “green” marketing generally sends shivers down my spine. Still very much in its nascent years, the term has developed enough baggage to seemingly constrain it to a niche audience. However, all macro trends start in a micro-fashion and green marketing has both a global scientific grounding and non-debatable symbolic characteristics defining it. That is to say that green marketing has a clear and substantive role in driving forward the dialogue and demand for sustainable products and services, which ultimately will influence real change in the marketplace with long term implications for our resource consumption and environmental preservation.

The greater percentage of the US marketplace does not engage in or incorporate behaviors that represent a broad or purposeful awareness of reducing environmental impact. As consumers, we simply don’t think about it on a day-to-day basis because the message does not surround us. Most of us did not grow up in a resource starved environment and so the implications of wastefulness have had no direct repercussions on our daily lives (the primary impetus for behavior change). We acknowledge the issue is out there and demonstrate concern for what is being done to improve our collective condition but beyond recycling or an interest in non-toxic HH cleaning products, we simply don’t have access to green products or services, let alone do we have an understanding for how to evaluate their functionality or benefit – to us or the environment.

Green marketing therefore becomes important as a momentum builder. Whether we shudder at the effect of ‘green washing’ or can’t bear to see another green leaf demarcating a natural product, the fact of the matter is that these simple symbols and semantics are used as early stage handles to initiate discussion and drive awareness.

The purpose of marketing is to communicate. Sustainability is not a marketing tool, it is a state of being or a lifestyle that works in balance with our natural resources. The challenge for us as consumers is to make sense of the products and services out there in order to choose what works with our own belief system and practices. We can only become better educated through the development of a more sophisticated marketplace that through demand will elevate the discussion.

Much as “portals” broadly defined accessing information on the internet in the 90’s, green advertising acts as a moniker to capture our attention and educate us on a movement that is pervading our local and global marketplaces. As companies struggle to provide us with information that we understand and is meaningful to us, the entire eco-system benefits through this gradual evolution of dialogue. Green marketing therefore does have a role, it’s a catalyst for awareness and discussion – and ideally one day, behavior change.

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