Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

Green Marketing Success Strategies From Sustainable Brands ‘09

Optimism is the sentiment coming from the Sustainable Brands 09 conference taking place in Monterey, California this week.  Consumer polls suggest that concern about the environment (relative to the economy) and stated intent to spend premiums on green brands is holding up in a tight times. Importantly, this is being played out in the green marketplace as well.

Concrete case examples of brand successes being presented at the conference suggests that pursuing a course of sustainable branding is indeed the route to sustainability even—against a backdrop of the toughest economic times any of us has ever experienced. Cases being presented include those of Brita water filters (still growing in response to a lingering backlash to last year’s eruption against bottled water), Burt's Bees natural personal care products, GreenWorks natural cleaning products, and SunChips whole grain healthy snacks. What they have on their side is, as consumer packaged goods, are low out of pocket costs, they’re in line with today’s “stay at home” culture, they are in sync with consumer expectations for product quality and efficacy, they enjoy the halo of big trusted brand names—and resources —of companies like Clorox and Frito-Lay.

Let’s dive deeper into Clorox’s Greenworks and Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips, two of the brand successes that were showcased yesterday morning by their brand managers. Both are placing their bets squarely in the sustainable brands and green marketing camp.  And both are grabbing share from entrenched competitors, enjoying the loyalty of conscious consumers who find a way to reflect their values in these products —products unlike green counterparts of an earlier day, actually work.

So what makes them work? I noted ten specific green marketing success strategies. These same strategies can work for your brands. We'll be talking about them all in more detail tomorrow at my workshop entitled, Green Marketing and Eco-Innovation. Here they are.

Green Marketing Success Strategies Showcased at the Sustainable Brands 09 Conference

1.    Lead from desirable primary product benefits—efficacy, naturalness, healthfulness (rather than environmental product attributes).  It’s clear by now that consumers won’t trade off efficacy for the planet (and why should they—to go to stores with their shopper hats on not citizen). Health is the number one reason why consumers are motivated to act on green. Greenworks literally works, and its natural —who can beat that combo? Sunchips is healthful and tastes great. This is consistent, too, with research presented at the conference by Diane MacEarnen of Big Green Purse fame indicating that moms especially are more motivated by the consequences of environmental ills like global climate change, e.g, childhood asthma, rather than the issue itself -- and all of its scientific underpinnings.

2.Underscore authenticity with packages that use renewable materials and are compostable. It's not enough to have a green product; the package, indeed every aspect of your product throughout it’s lifecycle must be green too.
3.    Reinforce credibility through labeling and third party seals. EPA’s Energy Star, Design for Environment, used by Clorox Greenworks, were discussed quite a bit at the conference.
4.    Provide transparency: research from Landor presented at the conference astounded me. 83% of consumers now want to know where their food comes from. The Clorox presenter mentioned that his product ingredients are all on his company’s GreenList.  Later in the day, I was delighted to learn that the company is in the process of disclosing the exact ingredients (though, understandably not the percentages) of each ingredient in their products, including GreenWorks—in spite of proprietary considerations.
Representing a new development, Lay’s is now making it easy for snackers to find out which farmers supply the potatoes from Lays. I suspect this is a natural next step for SunChips.
5.    Cultivate relationships with new heroes. Celebrities are proven green spokespeople—Leonardo DiCaprio, Better Midler, Gwyeth Paltrow all provided free exposure and excitement for the introduction of Toyota’s Prius. Demi Moore’s tweets helped propel awareness of Sun Chips’s new compostable bag. Try authors and experts, too.
6.    Communicate processes as well as green product benefits. Sun Chips got a lot of green marketing mileage out of a solar powered billboard—the perfect medium for highlighting the use of solar to power their factory. (I couldn’t help thinking what a “natural” it would be for Frito-Lay to calculate and communicate the sun energy actually embodied in the chips themselves!)
7.    Humanize your effort. Adopt a cause. Coincidentally, two sequential presenters yesterday had each adopted Greenburg, Kansas, the city that had been completely wiped out by a hurricane last year.
8.    Educate and empower consumers. Thomas Oh, Frito-Lay’s SunChips brand manager, described their intriguing website entitled, GreenEffect.com that encourages consumers to share ideas to save the planet.
9.    Partner to extend credibility, reach and resources. Some of the intriguing partners discussed this morning include National Geographic, PG&E, Google and the Sierra Club.  (Mark Baker from Clorox disappointingly did not address issues that flared when the green cognescenti discovered that the Sierra Club was getting compensated for its endorsement. So be careful….)
10.    Leverage social networks. There’s lots of blogging, twittering and Facebook pages going on. I did get the distinct impression though that Facebook pages are not always so successful. We are still understanding how to use this powerful medium.

In closing, I offer two empowering thoughts to help unleash creativity and help you take advantage of these strategies. One, don’t worry about not being perfect! I was impressed that SunChips announced its compostable bag one full year before actually being available. Thomas Oh encouraged everyone to not to be afraid to put a stake in the ground!  Makes sense. In doing so, one gets the buzz started and builds enthusiasm. Don’t be afraid it won’t happen. Frito’s got too much at stake not to make sure the innovation will actually happen. Remember the backlash Bill Ford Jr. experienced when the green cars he personally promised were held up by a management team wedded to  presumably more profitable SUVs.
Secondly, leverage sound science.  Hefty bags got into trouble years ago by making bags that would merely disintegrate into tiny pieces of plastic, rather than bioplastics that are actually biodegradable. Call it greenwashing. But more accurately, the science failed. Greenworks uses sound science to concoct cleaners made of coconuts and other natural ingredients that work. SunChips has perfected a bag that protects and preserves the chips—and literally disappears before your very eyes.    END.

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