Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

Shop ‘Til You Drop—but on Earth Day?


This year seemed to produce a bumper crop of Earth Day promotions — and a lot of accompanying media backlash. Stories written by Marc Gunther, Matt Wheeland, and a NYTimes piece by Elisabeth Rosenthal are three I saw and I’m sure you saw more yourself.

The media are making Earth Day marketers look like the moneychangers in the temple.  Why is this happening? What can we do about it?

It’s happening because of dyed-in-the-wool skepticism over business’s real motives when it comes to the environment.  Accordingly, it’s happening because the media historically has been quick to sniff out greenwash stretching back to Earth Day 1990 when biodegradable diapers and trash bags promised to disappear in landfills; and It’s happening because the number of Earth Day promotions have been reaching a crescendo — so many in fact that some smart marketers are opting to pre-empt the din by promoting in March instead.

And it will continue until environmentally conscious brands learn to create awareness and build brand loyalty by doing four things:

1) leading with their products’ real points of difference — that they clean better, taste better, or provide better nutrition than “brown” competitors;
2) leaving the babies, daisies, and planets on the white boards of the ad and promotion agencies that suggest this imagery in the first place;
3) understating the environmental benefits that their products do provide;
4) and even (horror of horrors), taking a lesson from Patagonia’s Black Friday ad suggesting to one’s consumers that on Earth Day they might just not buy any products at all — including their own.

Jacquelyn Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 firms, entreprenuerial companies, and the U.S. government. She is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler, 2011)

    Recent blog posts:

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