Green Claims Can Trip Up Marketers

by | Feb 6, 2008

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green_claims1.jpgMarketing Sherpa offers tips on how marketers can avoid common greenwashing mistakes. The advice is timely given that a 2007 Yankelovich Research survey found 34 percent of consumers 16 and over were more concerned about environmental issues than a year before, and a recent ImagePower Green Brands survey concluded that consumers expect to double their green spending to $500 billion annually.

According to Scott Case, VP of TerraChoice, companies that greenwash can set off a chain reaction. A hardcore green consumer will be the first to denounce greenwashing, and the ill will can spread to 80 percent of the market. But Case thinks a lot of greenwashing isn’t intentional misrepresentation as much as it is a poor understanding of the issue.

In order to avoid this pitfall, Marketing Sherpa says companies need to know where their products are environmentally-friendly and where they’re not. Or, as Case puts it, a company needs to know exactly what its worst critics will say about a product, “because those are the roots of potential greenwashing charges.”

Companies also need to provide proof of their green claims either by making their research results public, such as on a website, or getting third-party environmental certification. According to Jacquelyn Ottman, the four most recognizable certifications are three arrows for recyclable products, Energy Star symbols for energy, the green and white organic label from Ag Department and the checkmark tree from Forest Stewardship Council.

And one needs to appeal to the consumer, keeping in mind that there’s the hardcore consumer, who wants a lot of detail, and the everyday consumer, who doesn’t. Marketing Sherpa says its best to offer detail, but don’t lead green.

In its latest Map Report(What Makes A Picture), which is designed as a research tool for anyone using images for marketing, Getty Images also cautions against cliched imagery in eco-advertising. “Pictures of the ice caps and polar bears will not resonate with consumers in the future,” said Rebecca Swift, global creative planning director at Getty.

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