Green Marketing Cliches Can’t Save the World
I have a recurring fear. It is of a group of well-meaning environmentalists sitting around watching the news as climate change spins out of control, and congratulating themselves because they were not responsible for the destruction. It’s not enough to be on the right side of history. We have to win too. Unfortunately too many environmentalists – and that includes activists, conservationists and green business people – are content to preach to the converted. Walk the halls of any “green” tradeshow or consumer event – or open up the pages of an environmental magazine – and you’ll see people communicating to blend in, not stand out.
Good-for-the-world businesses need to express sustainability as the vibrant, exciting, game-changing proposition it is if we are going to engage a critical mass of people and take sustainability firmly into the mainstream. We should put our heart and souls into what we do. And that means we need to differentiate ourselves. And you can’t do that by using the same typeface as everyone else. (Papyrus is only a good font choice if you want to look like every other massage therapist, conservation non-profit, or crystal healer in the country!) You can’t do it by basing your logo on a leaf or by putting a hand cupping a seedling on the cover of your annual report. And you can’t do it by using a tagline that says “Saving the Earth, one _____ at a time.” We have to step up our communications, or we have to admit defeat and sit back and watch the world crumble.
Luckily better communication is not rocket science. And it’s fun too. It means finding what makes you different. It means standing out from the crowd. And it means using sustainability as a lever, not a pedestal. In a world where citizens are inundated with shallow, vacuous messaging and a pressure to buy more and more stuff, it can be hard to compete by simply selling virtue or the good that you do. Conversely, however, if you can sell your brand as offering a better consumer experience, and real benefits to your core audience, then showing that you believe in more than just money can be a powerful way to build trust and deepen engagement. If we are going to win we must learn to make our case relevant to a mainstream audience. We must step up our own game. Niche marketing is fine if you are selling a niche product. But sustainability must reach everyone if it will ever be sustainable.
This is a guest post by SAMI GROVER
Sami Grover is an environmental activist and co-creative director at The Change Creation, a creative team offering brand strategy and design for good-for-the- world businesses and non-profits. He is also a regular contributor to TreeHugger and TLC’s Parentables. He once vowed never to fly again, then he fell in love with someone on the other side of the Atlantic. He believes that adaptability is a prerequisite for sustainability.