The green revolution has allowed businesses to reinvent themselves, uncover opportunities, expand potential and give new life to old marketing campaigns. According to environmental marketing firms, the average number of ‘green’ products per store almost doubled between 2017 and 2018, while green advertising nearly tripled between 2016 and 2018.
It’s great for the ecology and economy. But with so many touting green, it’s important that you continually differentiate your brand as the brand of choice. In a greener marketplace, the same basic rules apply — know thy customer, know thy competition and know thyself. To come out on top, here are some common green marketing mistakes that you should avoid.
Only promoting what your company does to be green, while not articulating what your company will do to help your customers be green
If you’ve won an environmental award or implemented an in-house recycling program, by all means, promote it. It lends credibility to your message, and customers want to partner with companies with proven track records. Don’t make the green marketing mistake of only focusing on your efforts. However, while it may get you in the door, altruism alone is not going to sell your goods and services. If you are a green company, it’s very likely your competitors are too or will be soon. What sets you apart? Consider how many dry cleaners in your city are now displaying “green” in their storefronts. Do you know exactly what they are doing that’s green, and how it impacts you as a consumer? Is there something that would make you think one dry cleaner is greener than the other? The winning factor is the value you bring to the banquet and how you lead customers to sit at your table. Ultimately, environmentally concerned customers are going to do business with companies that can help them. Identify the key areas where your product or services can reduce environmental impact and match them up to your customers’ interests.
Attempting to sell a green attribute with no quantifiable benefit
If your marketing claims tout reduced energy consumption, for example, then you should have a valid way of telling customers how much they’ll save and how that contributes to a healthier planet. It may take an investment of time and resources, but it will leave customers with more than green promises and open new business potential. And it’s one of the best ways to convince a customer to upgrade to a new model or choose your product over a competitor’s. Stats count. We have moved closer to the tipping point in sustainability, where businesses are now looking for tangibles. If the good deed is not measurable, then it’s harder to justify the effort.
Misusing or over-using green jargon
There is a difference between recyclable and biodegradable; using less energy doesn’t save trees, and carbon does not create a hole in the ozone layer. One of the most common green marketing mistakes is just slapping on a “green” label on anything without considering what it means. We have to expect that customers will be astute in their knowledge, and not only the company’s sustainability officer. If you have a sales force that is gung-ho to pitch green, you’re in the running. If green is not your usual area of expertise, brush up on your knowledge and ensure that employees interfacing with customers are well prepared, so credibility is not instantly compromised. This might involve basic green training to the same extent that you train your sales force on product specifications, along with marketing programs that have a clear, consistent message. By the same token, it will take a skilled marketer to use the appropriate voice to appeal to customers. Sustainability reports are highly useful, but not all your marketing collateral can read like a sustainability report, or you’ll lose part of your audience.
Being vague or embellishing the facts
Greenwashing is the attempt to assign an environmental attribute to a product or service that is false or misleading. When investigating products at big box stores, Terrachoice found that 98% committed one of their Sins of Greenwashing. The FTC is mindful of this as well and has established Guides for the use of Environmental Claims by which companies can be held liable. Take time to review them so you can avoid an innocent mistake that can tarnish your credibility.
Not Conducting Digital Marketing Competitive Analysis
This green marketing mistake may seem obvious to the seasoned marketer. But you may want to ramp up your competitive intelligence gathering. If you manufacture products, your competitors probably have all the same green certifications, and your customers will hear similar pitches. Find your competitive edge, which will probably be in the value ads that speak to customers. Thoroughly researching prospects should not be an afterthought. You should be aware of their environmental goals, what they are looking for in a vendor, and how you can help them. As stated earlier, being an awesome green company is not enough when differentiators are becoming few. You must also be an awesome green marketer.