Jacquie Ottman's
Green marketing Blog

Jacquie Ottman's Green Marketing Blog

Eco-Logos: A Double-Edged Sword?

Eco-logos are all the rage - but how valuable are they as a green marketing tool? Are there some hidden risks that warrant a second look? Let's consider the three ingredients of an effective marketing logo - green or otherwise - and their implications for the savvy eco-marketer.

Here are the three factors at play:

1. Recognizability. Eco-logos can reinforce green messages, a welcome benefit for sure. But of the myriad eco-logos on the market, only a few are known to consumers. They consist of the, chasing arrows recycling logo, …Read more...


How to Avoid the Carbon Offset “Gotcha” Game

In a market that demands nothing less than completely honest, ethical, and authentic corporate communications, it can sometimes seem like no green deed goes unpunished. The NFL catching flak for its not-quite carbon neutral Super Bowl 2008 is a case in point.

For the second year in a row, the National Football League plans to offset "100%" of estimated emissions associated with the Super Bowl. Sounds pretty good, right? The NFL is taking positive climate action, from buying renewable energy certificates to replanting acreage lost to wildfires. Unlike …Read more...


Green Marketing: What Not to Say

Don’t join the growing number of marketers throwing around phrases like “environmentally friendly,” “Earth friendly,” and “ozone friendly.” While such claims have a calming ring, they can be very misleading. Here's how to avoid some common traps.

The simple fact is, there is no such thing as an "eco-friendly" product; all use resources and create waste to some degree. To avoid such confusion in the marketplace, the Federal Trade Commission introduced its Environmental Marketing Guidelines in 1992. Some are some key takeaways.

  • Be specific. Marketers are liable not …


    Apples Versus Oranges: To Compare or Not?

    I received an email this morning from a frantic manufacturer of laptops: "We need to finalize a green marketing claim for an ad we're preparing. Our laptops use less energy than desktop computers. Should we make the claim? Help! We don't want to be accused of greenwash!" (Note: Company name not included and category has been changed for confidentiality - but you'll get my points!)

    On the surface a comparative green marketing claim such as this one looks pretty innocuous. However, dig a little deeper and you find some issues.


    Is There a Green-Consumption Gap?

    A new poll shows that 76% of consumers say they want to help others and 69% aim to provide a better life for their children, but only 26% say they actively seek out environmentally responsible products - a challenge for sure for green marketing. Paradoxically, more than 90% say that the environment influences their day-to-day purchasing decisions. What's going on?

    If the environment is truly influencing as many as 90% of consumer purchasing decisions, chances are respondents are either overreporting to a surveytaker in the interest of looking worthy …Read more...


    A Country Divided on Climate Change: What Green Marketers Can Learn

    According to the 2008 American Climate Values Survey (ACVS), the American public is deeply divided on the issue of climate change. These deep rifts trace to such factors as religion, political affiliation, and even the perceived state of the economy. Understanding such dynamics creates an opportunity for green marketers to step in with relevant and targeted messages.   

    Although public recognition of global warming has increased greatly over the past several years, climate change still remains relatively low on the list of priorities for all but the most …Read more...


    What’s Law Got to Do with It?

    An Australian law firm recently blamed fuzzy regulations by government bodies as a key source of confusion, and hence risk, for would-be green marketers. Is this a fair accusation? More importantly, is it even relevant?

    While no government can be expected to stay completely current on a fast-moving green vernacular, it can be expected to define the territory in order to protect consumers from potentially fraudulent and misleading green terms. Government watchdogs such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority are working hard to …Read more...


    Play Ball with a Polluter—or Not?

    ExxonMobil is coming around to the fact that a green reputation is necessary to compete. Among other steps, they are investing in their R3M technology to remotely detect oil and gas and reduce drilling. From a marketing perspective, they are running an extensive campaign in major dailies and newsweeklies, and among other things, are sponsoring the Washington Nationals’ LEED-certified baseball park.

    But not everyone is so comfortable with Exxon’s green marketing efforts. Sponsorship of the baseball park is drawing flack from environmental activists, who are pressing the Nationals to …Read more...


    Is There a gDiaper in Your Baby’s Future?


    Can anyone topple the disposable diaper giants?  The makers of gDiapers promise an attractive, well fitting, convenient diaper that can be flushed, home composted or tossed. All parents want a diaper that is easy to dispose of, safe, absorbent, and affordable.  Can gDiapers provide all of this with less load on the planet?  Let’s see how the facts stack up.

    Diaper Facts:  Sustainable vs. Conventional

    There’s no doubt that disposables are the easiest to use.  All you do is undo the plastic …Read more...


    Address Sustainability or Risk Not Being Sustained

    In an age where sustainability has begun to assert itself across the consumer and business-to-business product spectrums, those managers who fail to respond to social and "green" initiatives will find their brands swiftly barred from consumers' hearts and pockets.

    Films like Supersize Me and An Inconvenient Truth are radically altering the marketing landscape. In response to such media, McDonald's has launched a bevy of healthy alternatives, and the market for hybrid and alternative fuel (ethanol/bio-diesel) automobiles is booming.  This method of creating change through media has consumers better informed …Read more...


    Déjà Vu All Over Again - Part II

    Last month I discussed some of the green marketing missteps that we keep repeating no matter how many times we should have learned from hard experience that such tactics fall short. I suggested that rather than repeating these mistakes, perhaps the best solution is to move forward with new product innovations that truly transcend green marketing claims and eco-labels.

    In fact, pursuing a course of eco-innovation - new product concepts with the potential for significantly enhanced consumer benefits and significantly reduced environmental impact - might be just what the …Read more...


    How Far, Pray Tell?

    How far have your products traveled from manufacturing plant or farmer's field to market? Perhaps it's time to tell your consumer. In a marketplace where more and more consumers want to know their carbon footprint, and the marketers themselves are often confused about how to craft their sustainability messages, meaningful, easy-to-understand information is at a premium. Too many think, for instance, that bamboo (which travels 6,000 miles to get to your floor) and fair trade bananas are going to "save the planet," when the truth is that locally procured alternatives …Read more...


    It Isn’t Always So “Friendly” Being Green

    Don’t join the growing number of marketers throwing around phrases like "environmentally friendly,” “Earth friendly," and "ozone friendly." While such claims have a calming ring, they can be very misleading. The simple fact is, there is no such thing as an "eco-friendly" product; all use resources and create waste to some degree. To avoid such confusion in the marketplace, the Federal Trade Commission introduced its Environmental Marketing Guidelines in 1992. Some key takeaways:

    —Be specific. Marketers are liable not only for inaccurate statements but also for consumers' misinterpretations of …Read more...


    Make It Your Own

    Look around at the all green campaigns today and you'll see a focus on personal involvement, coupled with a glut of environmental advice such as purchasing CFLs. However, amidst all the clutter, the question arises: How can you differentiate your communications in a marketplace crowded with green advertising? The answer lies not in screaming for more energy efficient products, but by articulating your niche. Consumer empowerment marketing angles have merit, but the most powerful green messaging derives from core business functions. Bland claims of "win-win" situations, of "how to do …Read more...


    Move Over Kermit - Employees Are Taking the Eco-Spotlight

    To help spread the word about their new sustainability campaigns, leading companies including Coke, Anheuser Busch, and Ford are starting to leverage one of their most powerful assets: their employees.

    Using employees to promote sustainable initiatives is a winning strategy. Why? Employees are “regular people” and, as such, they are much better equipped to gain more trust and confidence of prospective consumers than splashy Hollywood celebrities, million dollar CEOs, and paid pitchmen. Employees are objective critics of their companies' greenness. If employees are viewed as involved and openly on-board …Read more...


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