In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the month of March is filled with the color green. Green hats. Green necklaces. Green beer. Green Shamrock Shakes. Once the month is over, these items leave the store shelves – or are discontinued at McDonald’s. But there’s something that can continue being green for the rest of the year (and we’re not talking about Kermit). It’s your business.
In recent years, more businesses have been taking steps toward more sustainable practices. Yet simply adding more “green” to your brand platform isn’t enough. To be most successful, your company needs to build sustainability into your overall vision, values and fundamental beliefs. In other words, sustainability should be practiced in everything your brand does.
Some of the ways to be more green are obvious and include cutting down on paper and printing, using recyclable products and choosing environmentally safe cleaning products. Aside from these things, you can also work more green into your marketing strategy. This is good for two reasons. One: It builds sustainability into your brand. Two: It demonstrates to consumers that your brand cares about the environment.
How exactly can you “green” your marketing strategy? Below are some tips to get you inspired.
Show that your business means business.
Simply talking about being green isn’t enough to impress consumers. And nor should it be. The environment could really use our help, and it starts at the top. Here are a few ways that you can demonstrate that your business is actively making changes to better the environment.
Have a visibly committed CEO.
Encourage employee awareness and involvement.
Be proactive by minimizing risks ahead of time.
Share your values to strengthen emotional connections.
Practice green marketing by using soy-based inks and electronic media.
Be open and honest about your practices.
Consumers want to know that the company they’re supporting is following through on what they stand for. If they find out that your company has hidden bad news, they’re not going to be happy. Good or bad, be transparent about your products and corporate practices and report on progress. If there are things that could be better, be honest and discuss ways you plan to improve them in the future.
Enlist support from the good guys.
One way to demonstrate your commitment to the environment is by enlisting support from third parties. Support can come in the form of eco-labels, environmental product declarations and cause marketing. You can also team up with other sustainable business partners, such as those you get your ingredients or materials from and other like-minded businesses. There is strength in numbers.
Let’s take a look at a few ideas for third-party support.
Environmental Product Declarations. EPDs provide third-party-verified explanations of a product’s life-cycle impacts.
Eco-Labels. Energy Star and USDA’s Certified Organic are examples of labels that have gained purchase influence. If your industry doesn’t have an eco-label, think about developing one.
Endorsements and Awards. Credible third parties can endorse a brand or issue awards.
Cause Marketing. Your business can donate a portion of revenue to a relevant non profit organization.
Promote responsible consumption.
You can be successful in designing greener products, but reducing their life-cycle impact requires the help of the consumer. Most consumers agree that it’s their responsibility to properly use and dispose of products, so at least they are honest about admitting their role in following through. Still, most consumers need to be nudged along.
Start with the product label because consumers often look there first for information about a product’s environmental claims. Give information about how to properly use the product so that it is most efficient, and how to safely dispose of it to minimize environmental impact.
Familiarize yourself with the FTC Green Guides.
It’s important to understand the FTC Green Guides so that you don’t present consumers with false or misleading information. Some brands have learned the hard way by using terms like “renewable” and “carbon offset,” only to find themselves under fire for misleading consumers. Before using any sustainable terms, be sure that you understand what they mean, and be ready to back up your claims.
Embrace what people love about your products.
Even though you may be trying to promote a greener image, you may find that the key to successful marketing isn’t using green terminology at all. At the end of the day, consumers want to know how products can benefit them personally. If you focus too much on the sustainability aspect of your product and not enough on how it can help the consumer, you may limit your potential.
For example, one model of Sears’ Kenmore steam washer uses a fraction of the water and energy compared to older models. But rather than using this information in their marketing efforts, they came out with something simple that appealed to consumers: “You pay for the washer. It pays for the dryer.”
When creating your marketing strategy, don’t forget to speak to the consumer first. Having sustainable products and practices will enhance your brand image and strengthen customer relationships, but it won’t sell products in itself.
Working more green into your marketing strategy is never a bad thing. Consumers feel more positive toward brands that care about the environment because it means they care about the customer, too. Also, brands that carefully choose the materials and ingredients that go into their products demonstrate credibility and trustworthiness.
Do make sure that you can back up the claims that you make and that you don’t lose the basic fabric of your overall marketing strategy when greening up your marketing campaign. If you can balance this with a fresher, greener image, you’ll be able to strengthen loyalty ties with your customers and sell more product.