Fran Kelly: Environmental awareness can drive profits

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Can advertising make a significant, positive impact on environmental awareness and can companies really drive profits with this type of strategy?

The issue of environmental protection has never seen so much attention. Even traditional companies receive rave reviews for their environmentally focused campaigns. There are various steps companies are taking to safeguard the environment.

Fran Kelly, president/CEO of the U.S. operations of Arnold Worldwide and author of the book "The Breakaway Brand," has first-hand experience with green and cause advertising with his client Timberland and the anti-tobacco "Truth" campaign.

Most recently, Mr. Kelly's agency came out with Timberland's "Make It Better" packaging that involved re-designing the company's shoeboxes to make them completely biodegradable.

DM News Associate Editor Giselle Abramovich interviewed Mr. Kelly to get a better understanding of the ins and outs of green marketing.

GA: Would you say most companies do this type of campaign?

FK: On a large scale, this is a fairly new idea. Green advertising is no doubt one of the most prominent recent trends in advertising and marketing. Companies in all sectors are rolling out green campaigns, bringing attention to their eco-friendly efforts.

How could a company benefit from conducting such an effort?

Well, because being environmentally conscious is a hot topic in the news, companies that highlight protecting the environment in their campaigns have a better chance to catch the consumer's attention.

Marketing is not just about awareness and sales these days. It is about understanding and then becoming an important part of consumers' lives. More and more consumers are thinking green, so smart marketers are too.

Can you give some examples of successful green campaigns?

Some of the most publicized and talked-about campaigns have been General Electric's Ecomagination; Diesel's current print ads, stamped with the tagline "Global Warming Ready," depicting landscapes that have been transformed by environmental disasters; and Timberland's "Make It Better" packaging.

What is the common strategy behind such campaigns?

Simply put, the goal is to tie the brand name with the socially conscious beliefs of the corporation and bring that message to the consumer level. Great marketing goes beyond awareness to building a relationship with your customers and prospects. Green thinking is one smart way to grow your business today.

What challenges do marketers come across when conducting such campaigns?

Along with the increasing popularity of green advertising, there has been a sharp backlash from skeptics who warn that companies may rush into green campaigns. Your green campaign had better be real, honest and sustainable.

Ad agencies often advise companies to be careful with their statements on the environment. A company must make sure its product will do exactly what it's being touted to and that any claims must be substantially justified.

Can companies profit from green advertising?

Yes. According to a study in BusinessWeek, consumers are 66 percent more likely to purchase a product if they know the company behind it is environmentally conscious. Showing consumers via a magazine ad or TV commercial that your company cares about saving the world can have a significant impact on whether they buy your product or your competitor's. n

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