Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

Why Guilt Won’t Sell Green

In the midst of a national energy crisis in 1978, U.S. president Jimmy Carter took to the airwaves in a cardigan sweater encouraging Americans to conserve energy by turning the thermostat to 68º F. His campaign failed because of its link to deprivation, and because it represented a threat to the upward mobility and prosperity that is America.

While some may question the idea that “bigger is better,” most Americans have not historically been willing to reverse their hard-won struggles to “have” for a future characterized by “have not.” It is a fundamental rule of green marketing: consumers believe that technology, coupled with cooperative efforts on the part of all key players in society, will safeguard their future.

Rather than leveraging fear tactics, playing to pessimism, or laying guilt trips, marketers are better off adopting a hopeful, integrated corporate positioning. Examples of successful, optimistic ad campaigns abound: Epson’s “Better Products for a Better Future” campaign, Kashi’s cereal ads featuring vignettes of healthy people that end with the tagline “Seven Whole Grains on a Mission,” and Stonyfield Farm’s fun, upbeat “Yogurt on a Mission”-themed website which includes lighthearted videos and the opportunity to learn about some of the specific family farms where Stonyfield sources its ingredients. Invite your consumers to participate in a hopeful, optimistic mission to be more green.

Excerpted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman

Jacquelyn Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government.  Her firm’s website, containing more information about the book, is http://www.greenmarketing.com.

Recent blog posts:

How Consumers Can Share Responsibility for Greening

Running on Human Power

Let the Consumer Decide What is Green

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