Green Marketing Not For The Faint Of Heart

by | Apr 30, 2007

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Going green is a dangerous business, especially for companies whose actions aren’t as substantive as their ads, AdAge reports.

“Do you really dare put your head above the parapet by touting your greenness and attract very knowledgeable consumers who are going to crawl all over your business … and Greenpeace and every other environmental group you can think of?” Mike Longhurst, senior VP at McCann Erickson, London, asks in the article. “If consumers think they can catch you telling a half-truth, they will.”

In a time when a simple Google search can unearth reams of information, even the best-meaning marketers are open to attacks by watchdog groups. “We are certainly aware that’s how the drill goes down,” said Jim Adams, executive director-marketing at Chipotle. “You start doing good things, and people expect you to do more, and they want you to do more. That’s why we do these things incrementally. There aren’t many things we dive into head first,” he said. “You become a bigger target. When the underdog becomes the top dog, you want to knock them down.”

Perhaps the biggest hurdle between marketing and the green movement is that “deep green” consumers believe that the only way to stop global warming is to drive down consumption while marketing’s job is to drive consumption and increase sales year over year.

Andrea Levine, director of the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, said she expects more cases this year of competitors challenging environmental claims. AdAge reports. If you want to make sure to stay out of a regulatory mess, check out the FTC’s “green guides” on the agency’s website. Environmental claims fall under section five of the FTC Act, which “prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” said Laura DeMartino, assistant director of the FTC’s enforcement division.

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