Consumers Don’t Believe Your Brand’s Green Messages

It’s not easy being green. Kermit knew it. Brands are about to find out the same truth. According to a New York Times article this week, consumers have become incredibly skeptical about companies who tout environmentally-friendly messaging in their marketing efforts.

What did we expect to happen?

Al Gore and his famed documentary took off like wildfire. More and more consumers began flocking to companies that supported green. Marketers jumped on the bandwagon. Some brands can live up to their eco-friendly messaging. Most can’t. And consumers can see right through it.

Why do brands try to be something they’re not and ruin it for those who are?

Smart marketers told their non-green clients that they can’t just talk the talk. They have to live it out in the way they operate their companies. But many probably gave in to client demands after a couple of push backs. After all, clients pay the bills. “Yes” men and women simply drafted creative briefs and PR plans without thinking twice.

This is the challenge we face sometimes as marketers, both on the agency side and within our own companies. We capitalize on consumer trends. That’s great. Actually, its smart marketing. But we live in a world where businesses are more transparent given the access to companies and power granted to consumers by the Web. You can’t fool them anymore. At least not for long.

Some companies share their love of Earth with consumers through marketing that is a true reflection of their businesses. Timberland worked with Mullen (disclosure: my employer) to create the first ever, carbon-neutral media plan, which was recently awarded Media Plan of the Year by MediaWeek. It was just one more way – of many – that Timberland again showed its consumers that its mission is to equip people to make a difference in their world.

We are all consumers of course. I’m interested in what you think. How do you feel about the green promises you see on packaging or read in corporate executives’ quotes in a news story? Has it lost its sparkle for you, too?

*Image by Felix Francis and used under the Creative Commons Attribution License .

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6 responses to “Consumers Don’t Believe Your Brand’s Green Messages

  1. I definitely agree, David. Great article!

  2. I’m all for green business, but it has to start at the executive level of the corporation and be integrated into the corporate strategy. Once it’s the way the company “does business” it’s much easier for the marketing and PR people to do their job positioning the company as green. When companies try to get it to work the other way around, they’re asking for trouble when the truth comes out – and then they’re looking for PR help to reduce the backlash.

  3. Laurie – I completely agree. You have to live what you say or consumers will sniff it out and your brand’s reputation will be worse off in the end.

    Thanks for sharing your insights. It’s appreciated!

  4. Good point David. Everyone is claiming to be “green.” Just because a company recycles their paper doesn’t mean they can claim “green” products or that they are an entirely green company.

    Becoming an environmentally-friendly company may take a long time for some. If that’s the case, it’s much better to be honest, state your company’s intentions and make efforts to become a little greener over time. I believe consumers will respect your truthfulness and efforts.

  5. This is close to home for me, David. I recently counseled a client against doing a “green” white paper because they just don’t do enough to back it up. Yes, we had a trade publication all too happy to publish the paper. And yes, we could have written it and gotten the client a “quick hit.” However, truly meaningful green initiatives have to be authentic. Companies shouldn’t be jumping on the bandwagon just because green is a hot issue right now. I’m really glad this client listened to counsel and didn’t end up in a blog somewhere as a “worst practice” example.

  6. Kathleen Moriarty

    Last week, there was an article in BRANDWEEK about American consumers confusion about what “being green” actually means. Turns out, most people don’t know! While companies implement environmentally-friendly practices and introduce green products, educating their customers about their green practices will help them stand out in a cluttered market and create customer loyalty.

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