Kermit is Dead:
Effective Messaging in the Maturing Green Market
by Carolyn Parrs
Poor Kermit, he succumbed under the weight of taking green to the masses. It really wasn't easy being green after all. And that other cliché, "Saving the planet one ‘whatever’ at a time," needs to follow suit. It proves once again, that overuse kills, or at the very least, causes chronic invisibility which is just as fatal.
The real story is that the green world has grown far beyond the initial 19% of the population, past those Deep Greens whose purchase decisions tend to be planetary based. If that's the only group your message is targeting, you've omitted 81% of the population from the equation. Bad math. The mainstream, what we call the “Greenstream” is where the action is.
Environmental Leader (http://tinyurl.com/ygbdsq6) reported that 82% of companies surveyed plan to up their stake in green marketing in 2010. Mainstream interest is driving that. Too many food scares, Christmas toy horror stories, tainted and dangerous product alerts have put them on alert. Label reading is on the rise.
The question then for marketers who want to share in the growth of green is how to message, motivate, educate and communicate their unique promise-of-value and values to people who are beginning to suffer from green fatigue and confusion?
There are six musts in our equation that add up to effectively messaging your green brand in this maturing green market.
Relevancy is one of the single most motivating and persuasive factors in the marketplace. Ask yourself are you? Are your product and your message relevant to the wants and needs of this rapidly mainstreaming psychographic? Too many aren't.
A recent campaign by a Fortune 100 company touted their new line of greener paper products as "Green Done Right" (http://tinyurl.com/yfxrusw), as though up till now, green was done wrong. You can't dispose of the fact that their non-biodegradable disposable diapers have helped fill landfills to capacity, and then brag about doing green right. Right?
In their case, there was so much to talk about. They could have explained to me how wisely they were using all that paper I, and so many like me, have been dutifully recycling all these years – keeping tons and tons of it out of already overcrowded landfills and returning it to me as a usable renewed, repurposed product.
They might have told me that what I'm using to blow my nose or wipe my chin didn't take the life of a tree (only if that is true), or didn't further stress the environment. I think they could have made many of us feel good about ourselves for diligently recycling all these years. And for those that don’t, they could have spearheaded a massive campaign how to do it now. Then show them how their recycled newspaper directly benefits them. Now that simple newspaper could have been a badge of honor. Now that’s relevant. But they blew the challenge and produced a cliché instead of something compelling. What a missed opportunity
One of the most important things you can do is inform and educate. The more your customer knows, the more informed choices they can make. Tell them something they don’t know, but need to.
For a nationwide supplier of wooden pallets, we had to inform pallet buyers about the environmental advantages of wooden pallets over plastic pallets. Plastic pallets are a relatively new addition to the pallet marketplace and their claim was that they were more environmentally friendly because they can be recycled. They failed to mention the long carbon footprint and environmental stress plastic manufacturing leaves in its trail. Our press releases helped “Debunk the Environmental Myth of Plastic Pallets,” and received widespread coverage. We educated writers so they could help us spread the message.
You have to not only say something important, you have to say it well. Compelling messages jump off the page and grab the attention of the reader. That’s what interesting and intriguing headlines are designed to do.
For BioShield, a manufacturer of zero VOC, non-toxic paints, finishes and floor coverings, we uncovered an EPA statistic that indoor air pollution is 2-20 times worse than outdoor air pollution due to the out-gassing of potentially harmful toxins in everyday household products and building supplies. That information led to our tag line, “Beauty without the Beast”. Information made exciting becomes compelling.
Be Down to Earth
Too often green messages are so lofty that they’re all image and little substance. Especially now, in this time of economic concern and green confusion, you waste your message when you fail to respond to the real needs of real people in the here and now. Remember, the bulk of the green market comes from the Medium Greens among us. They will switch to green products and services, but only if they make sense.
So how do you bring your message down to earth? For a solar client of ours, we understood most Americans still believe that solar is for greenies living off-the-grid. To help change that perspective, we introduced the branding line, "We Bring Solar Down To Earth." It said that solar is now practical whether you’re in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of everything. That puts logic into ecologic. You can't just be all cause and no because.
Green consumers can smell a marketing message from a meaningful message a mile away. Many marketers learned this the hard way, thanks to word of mouse. Sincerity builds trust. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be willing to explain where you need improvement and what you’re going to do about it. So if you are even thinking of introducing a green product into this wildly vocal and wired marketplace, be straight up or you might find yourself with a frog in your throat.
Take Patagonia, the California-based outdoor equipment and clothing maker. Their mission, published on their web site for all to see is “to make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” One of the ways Patagonia puts its mission where its mouth is by implementing a self-imposed “earth tax,” a sum founder, Yvon Chouinard, feels is owed to the earth for being a polluter and user of the planet’s nonrenewable resources. They even created the Patagonia Footprint Chronicles (http://tinyurl.com/yg5p9kp), an interactive mini-site that allows you to track the impact of Patagonia products from design through delivery -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is transparency in action.
Go out of your way to serve, not sell. Help your customer. Tell them things they need to know. If you don’t have what they need, tell them where to get it, even if it’s from your competitor. Give away your knowledge and expertise without cost or expectation. Spread the love, helpfulness is part of the currency of green. Spend generously.
With the onset of social media, there’s never been a better and more affordable way to genuinely reach out and touch someone – thousands, millions at a time. Chris Brogan (http://www.chrisbrogan.com), a social media pioneer recommends becoming a Trust Agent. “Trust agents aren’t necessarily marketers or salespeople; they’re the digitally savvy people who use the web to humanize businesses using transparency, honesty and genuine relationships. When you learned a trust agents secrets, your words can carry more power and more weight than any PR firm or big corporate marketing department,” says Brogan. When you reward your customers with your help, they often reward you right back.
Now that over 1,500 new green products hit the market every year, to stand out you have to be a stand-out in every way. It’s not enough to be green any more. You have to be great. Not only in what you do or make, but in how you message your green product or service.
Carolyn Parrs and Irv Weinberg are principals at Mind Over Markets (www.MindOverMarkets.com), a strategic green marketing communications company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mind Over Markets specializes in effective messaging for the maturing green market. They co-author the Green Marketing Blog (www.GreenMarketingBlog.com), a leading voice in green communications, and speak internationally on green and sustainable marketing. Carolyn is also the host and creator of Women Of Green (www.WomenOfGreen.com), a podcast and online community about turning up the volume of the feminine in the green movement. They can be reached at 505-989-4004.