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Green product campaigns. Do they work?

July 23, 2009

Recently, a friend of a friend spoke about his disappointment that his company’s environmentally-friendly message, embedded in the advertisements of some flagship products, fell flat.

Their customers either didn’t know what the green message was about, couldn’t relate it to their daily lives, or just yawned and said, “Boring!!” Needless to say, sales figures didn’t flinch even as they burnt money on a series of fashionably green product ads.

Suddenly, all the internal buzz and excitement about this blue ocean of marketing fell quiet, leaving the marketing manager with a big headache.

Whoa, I thought. Did these people actually expect that if you put green anything in your ads, the world will beat a path to your doorstep? Haven’t they learnt anything from the tobacco industry already? You can say all you want about them bad ciggies but it never stopped anyone from buying them.

Okay, so why don’t “green” ads move people?

Let me pose that as a wider question. Why aren’t people responding to the message of environmentalism as a whole? (I exclude that Earth Hour thing and you know why.)

So why aren’t people refusing plastic bags at the supermarket or recycling their recylables? Why are people still buying fancy-packed foods at high prices, knowing such packaging consumes a disproportionate amount of resources compared to the food they contain?

If people don’t care about these things, why would they care that your product cuts less trees or consumes less energy to manufacture and run?

To me, doing that is a bit like trying to sell heavy metal to a crowd that only does Mozart. You ain’t gettin’ nowhere.

Yes, green product campaigns are a hit in Japan, Australia and the West where consumers tend to favor buying from companies that advertise as environmentally friendly.

But for South East Asia, I personally think it will be about 2 decades (20 years) before green campaigns will actually work. That would be the time it takes, I think, for people in all walks of life to wish they had gone green earlier. Just like the lung cancer patient who regrets smoking all those ciggies, sometimes people need to lose something precious before they wake up to a message. Before that, they’ll just yawn and say, “Boring!!”

I am not saying green campaigning is a complete waste of time today though. Well it is if you keep spraying the message to the masses who couldn’t care less. It isn’t if you target it to groups that actually care. There are pockets of consumers and green organizations that will respond positively to your message, even carrying it to their constituents. They are a minority and will require time and resources to hunt down but to me, that’s a much better way to reach out than just trying to spraypaint everyone green.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2009 10:20 am

    this is true. green product campaigns will only work on the greennie looking for such items. as for me, i think i would most likely scorn it and say ‘Boring!’

    Yeah, some have woken up to the message, some have not.

  2. July 24, 2009 8:43 am

    Education! We need to educate people more and for long term basis. The Earth Hour is crap as the focus was only for that few days…after that, everyone practically forgot about it. And some were in it for the party.

    I think what the company can do is to postpone the green plan for maybe 3-5 years or start doing it now…slowly. And also, don’t expect anything in return. There’s no way people will buy their ‘green’ marketing plan. The only thing they can do is to position themselves at the front line in this industry.

    Otherwise, when the trend really kicks in, they will just be another company among the thousands n thousands of companies trying to get into the ‘IN’ thing.

    Yup, agreed. People respond to needs and right now, going green is not a “need” for most people. They are waking up to it though, slowly, starting with old newspapers and that sort of thing. As far as branding goes, there is a tiny but growing impact of positioning a product as environmentally friendly now. You ride on the wave of climate change news that you see every day to push it home. Its an investment whose return may come a decade later. Once that message is lodged in the brain, it is difficult for a competitor to dislodge.

  3. July 24, 2009 8:44 am

    By the way, u changed ur theme? Hmm, this is very clean and quite simple. And good for people with bad eyesight. šŸ˜€ You’re preparing for readers like me to get old is it?

    Not really. I just like messing around with themes. šŸ˜€

  4. July 24, 2009 1:38 pm

    oh damn …

    i am selling

    1.guitars
    2.drumsticks and drums
    3.amp (shells are build out of wood)

    We switch off our shops light on earth hour , my customers LOLed at us šŸ˜›

    You did WHAT for earth hour? LOL. šŸ˜€

  5. August 4, 2009 2:40 am

    I believe the world is still capitalism. Cleaner, alternative energy isn’t used because of the cost and companies have to address to the shareholders and also compete with their competition.

    The only way is probably through government funding, media and education.

    Yes, even governments need to get a benefit from funding alternative energy. For one, they may have to forgo taxes from oil companies if they switch to clean energy and that can be substantial.

  6. stella permalink
    August 5, 2009 2:21 am

    i find that green products are not very boring instead there’re very useful, wise choice, environmentally friendly n contribute to the future of our planet. It is just that most of this environmental products are quite pricey.

    Example a green pan may cost around $300++ that save energy, less co2 n does not pollute the atmosphere. A good reusable bag costs $30 or more n last very long. A normal/light reusable bag that normally sell in the market that costs $2.50, $4.90 or more but easily wear off/doesn’t last long. A well green washing detergent that don’t pollute the water may cost around $20,$30 or more. And so on. So how can everybody Promote Greens products when they are selling it so expensive expecially the basis things/needs.

    For a green pan to be expensive is understandable as it is special, energy efficient, healthy n environmental but not greenwashing products, a good lasting reusable bags, green shampoo/soap or natural skin care.

    Anyhow, am very impressed with the remarkable eco-friendly green products n technologies that display in the western websites.

    You brought up some good points. To lead a completely green lifestyle in the city, your expenses will go up due to the products you mentioned. It will hurt your savings and to make up, you might work longer hours or take up a second job. You take extra transport, consume more paper and electricity in the office, etc. and in the end, find that you are actually producing more pollutants than before you became green.

    Being environmentally friendly is more than just avoiding plastic bags. There’s a whole carbon footprint of the individual to consider.

  7. tinytapir permalink
    October 2, 2009 6:50 pm

    Can’t just focus on green because most of the general public don’t truly think something bad is happening unless it’s already happened or is happening to them. You have to emphasize on the other ways the products are good – for example, stylistically (unfortunately), convenience, saves money (e.g. by lower electricity bills, water bills etc).

    The big pain in the a** in Malaysia is that the government so heavily subsidizes things that are bad for the environment – e.g. electricity and water are not accurately priced in terms of their actual cost here – they are subsidized. If water and electricity were charged at an unsubsidized cost, then “green” options would be more attractive because they save more over the long run. There are other examples – for example, disposable diapers are not taxed for import, but cloth items are.

    Same goes for energy saving light bulbs. Yes, it costs more in the immediate impact, but less on a per hour cost than a conventional light bulb. It’s difficult to convince people not to indulge in short term thinking though.

    I would disagree with your comment that living a green lifestyle increases expenses. Being TRULY environmentally friendly means a reduction in consumerism, so it would actually mean a DECREASE in your expenses. For example, instead of going to a shopping mall on the weekend (drive + find parking + air conditioned mall + spend money on food, watching a movie, buying stuff), being green would be getting on your bicycle and taking the family out on a bike trail.

    And green washing detergent is actually cheaper than the commercial stuff. We sell one that’s made in Malaysia and RM15 for 1kg.

    True, ideally reduced consumption means lower expenses, regardless of whether a product is green or not. What I do notice is that in Singapore at least, going green is not to cut down consumption. You just swap non-green products for green products. You don’t sacrifice your lifestyle so instead of ditching the car, you start thinking of hybrids. Instead of buying magazines you read them online which opens you up to marketing barrage leading to more purchases. Swapping to a greener medium does not always mean a reduction in costs but sometimes, it increases them, simply because there aren’t enough products or demand in the market to bring costs down. A cup of organically grown coffee for example can cost 2-3 times the usual cup of non-org coffee but people buy it nevertheless as a social statement.

    And approaching “green” as a trendy lifestyle, I think, is where the problem is.

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