Sustainability: Keeping Our Economy in a Green State-of-Mind.

In a time when our country is in an environmental and economical crisis, the popular campaign of “going green” is seeming every marketers dream. Seeing that our planet encompasses all consumers in every possible market, marketers can use the idea of “going green” to appeal to everyone. Thus, it is no surprise the idea of green seems to be everywhere: Fashion, beauty products, cars, computers, even food products. We have turned the earth, or the idea of it, into a commodity; and it sells. However, the obstacle arises with every marketing campaign or branding technique of sustainability, and keeping the consumer interested. And with the declining state of our economy, even the most creative marketers are going to have to find an innovative way to reach consumers.

With companies and organizations reducing their budgets, there is speculation about what will and what
will not survive the cut. Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) are expecting that due to the state of the economy, there will be less-emphasis placed on green-marketing over the next year, according to a study conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The survey asked CMO's from leading companies and organizations their opinions of the current marketplace in order to “predict the future of markets, track marketing excellence, and improve the value of marketing in firms and in society.” The results are bitter for the world of cause-marketing. Based on the responses from 72 Fortune 1000 companies and Forbes Top 200 small businesses, cause-marketing was ranked at the bottom of five priorities for the upcoming year. Marketers are more pessimistic with the state of the business world and want to focus their money and resources on more promising ways to reach consumers. If consumers do not have money to buy essentials, it is reasonable to assume they will not buy products merely to support a cause.

Nevertheless, there remain marketers that keep green-marketing a budget priority. This is partly because consumers with enough disposable income are going to continue to buy products from brands they are loyal to. Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, undoubtedly one of the leaders in creative marketing, has gone to many efforts to market Apple as a greener company. Apple has redesigned many of their products in order to re-market and position themselves as a more environmentally friendly brand. Among the most recent efforts, Apple has released the new “cleanest ipod” (See above right). The latest version of the ipod is made with less toxins and has a “highly recyclable aluminum enclosure”. The Apple brand serves as an example for marketers and has proven time and again to have strong brand loyalty. Consumers who purchase Apple products tend to have a very strong felt connection and association between the brand and themselves. We have undergone a cultural shift towards a greener society, therefore with the addition of cleaner and more eco-friendly attributes to their products, consumers have more positive feelings towards the brand. These affirming feelings then parallel a positive association for owning the product. This not only keeps the brand equity, it revamps Apple’s products to keep arouse new interest, as well as boosts the corporate social responsibilityof their company.

While Apple has taken the approach of incorporating more eco-friendly attributes into the production and manufacturing of their products, brands such as Clorox have attempted to buy sustainability. Clorox has received much scrutiny from Greenpeace in the past, however, Clorox has added the new product line of Greenworks, which uses 99% natural ingredients, as well as purchased the Burt’s Bees brand, in hopes of increasing positive attitudes felt towards the overall brand. Carter Elenz, the executive Vice President of sales and marketing says that as a company they are “still thinking [this market] is expandable” for themselves “and others”. He also makes a strong argument with that, noting that the brand has increased it’s expenditures the highest level it has ever been, and their sales have increased more than 50% in the past year. Bill Morrissey, Vice President of Environmental Stability says that "Clorox is committed to its own journey of environmental stability". From a marketing perspective Clorox has made inventive attempts to reshape their image and to integrate new ideas and brands into their overall business model.

Overall, whether a company is repositioning their brand as greener or simply buying out already green brands for a more positive company image, green marketing takes a tremendous amount of creativity. Kindley Walsh Lawlor, Gap's (umbrella brand to Old Navy and Banana Republic) director of strategic planning and environmental affairs notes that when using green marketing to re brand, “it’s more of when it’s right for us as a company and when it’s right for the consumers.” Smart marketers have a knack for doing the right thing, at the right time, and targeting the right people. Companies who succeeded in sustainability must use this combination when it comes to green marketing. The consumer not only buys the product, they buy into marketing campaigns and it is essential to keep that at the forefront when creating a sustainable green marketing campaign. Lawlor, among other keynote speakers at the Branding for Sustainability (see above left) workshops, help companies and organizations find the right mix of branding, marketing, green initiatives, and corporate social responsibility to create a sustainable brand.

While this study offers an interesting perspective into what is to come in the next year, we cannot reject that we have undergone a cultural shift towards a greener economy which will continue to effect marketing tactics. While we are experiencing a tighter budget in many facets of life, which will of-course take a toll on marketing strategies, but will not end the age of green. Chief Marketing Strategist Bob Gilbreath argues that cause-marketing “ is still what will get the news” for marketers.

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