Recession could make 'Eco' the new 'Green'
While the concept of 'Green Marketing' clearly made some breakthroughs in 2008, the idea of 'Eco Marketing' may be the way ahead for 2009, according to Jacquelyn Ottman and Abigail Cohen of J. Ottman Consulting.
While Wall Street had a stormy 2008, there is a silver lining for marketers: Many industry leaders are now turning to 'Eco' as a new source of Green consumer enthusiasm. This view is supported by five key green marketing stories drawn from a volatile year, supported by Ottman's views on what these concepts could mean for marketers in the year ahead.
- Advertising goes green and gets noticed In 2008: Despite budget cuts across the board, cause-related marketing still enjoyed 3% growth in 2008 and now represents 1 in 9 dollars spent on sponsorships. Wal-Mart, GE, and HSBC won the first-ever Green Effie awards, against a backdrop of other prominent companies being accused of making false green marketing claims. With eco-savvy shoppers on the prowl for truly environmentally sound companies and products, a new web site (called the Greenwashing Index) was launched to allow consumers to rate companies' green advertising claims.
In 2009: Green marketing campaigns are proving to be a good investment, but they had better hold up under public scrutiny as consumers wise up to the sharp practice dubbed 'greenwashing'. The prospect of free publicity from Green Effies and other such awards will make green an easier sale for marketing departments.
- The FTC updates green marketing guidelines In 2008: With so many environmental claims springing up, the US FTC (Federal Trade Commission) started producing a number of very fast updates to its Green Guides (last reviewed in 1998). Among the key topics considered were carbon offsets, green packaging requirements, and green building claims.
In 2009: Keep watch for more revisions to the Green Guides in 2009, and heed their advice. While not legally binding, these offer the best guidance available for would-be green marketers who want to keep their brands' claims on the straight and narrow.
- Bottled water takes a hit - then strikes back In 2008: With environmental consciousness informing consumerism, critics shunned bottled water for its inherent wastefulness and contribution to climate change - particularly in cities that offer perfectly acceptable drinking water. As Michael J. Brune, executive director for the Rainforest Action Network told the New York Times: "Bottled water is a business that is fundamentally, inherently, and inalterably unconscionable. No side deals to protect forests or combat global warming can offset that reality". In order to quench this kind of scrutiny, Fiji reported that its bottled water was truly carbon negative, and allied with Conservation International for technical advice and oversight of its investments in renewable energy and conservation efforts in the Fiji rainforest. And to reassure consumers, Fiji now plans to disclose its carbon footprint on a new web site. Nestle, too, retaliated against industry criticism with a new, lighter water bottle.
In 2009: According to some critics, no matter how strongly bottled water brands try to minimise and recycle their packaging, the idea of depleting ground water and transporting it over thousands of miles may well be unsustainable, and many consumers will continue to tap into other sources instead. Ottman's advice for marketers is to pay very close attention to consumers' concerns with their products' environmental impact, and consider an assessment of environmental impacts over the lifecycle of each product to identify the areas of greatest vulnerability.
- The crash of the auto industry In 2008: The US auto industry has been hit hard in the current bleak economy. Not surprisingly, many say that any potential government-backed financial bail-out should include an eco-makeover, creating new opportunities for green transportation technologies. Forging a partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute, GM is one of the many automakers racing to clean up its eco-related act, thanks to the new Chevy Volt (due in 2010). GM has also announced plans to devote an entire design studio to cleaner vehicles.
In 2009: Watch for more cleaner, greener, smaller cars on the road - and soon. Marketers in all sectors should take a leaf out of GM's book and plan ahead, monitoring long-term changes in their own industries. Five-year timelines are now too short.
- Administration change In 2008: With the replacement of the Bush/Cheney regime comes major changes in terms of environmental politics. Environmental groups have long accused the Bush administration of ecological ignorance, but many observers feel that an Obama-driven White House may help green business to flourish. The new administration says it has plans to support clean energy, provide some 5 million green-collar jobs, and to set stricter regulations for businesses.
In 2009: A renewed focus on environmental issues in Washington may strengthen the green market and require cleaner and greener marketing strategies from all industries. Expect green to move from being a niche to a being mainstream business necessity.