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Should ‘green’ be part of a campaign?

Peggy Atkins

President, Imagine Works LLC
Twenty-five years of ad agency experience 

Marketers should take every opportunity to promote their environmental reputation and sustain­ability efforts to consumers. The next generation of consumers is going to demand responsible resource use from businesses and they will be looking to spend money with the businesses that are ecologically aware and responsible. They are not going to stand for com­panies that aren’t doing things in an environmentally sound way.

We are now seeing a situation where people are becoming more sensitive to green issues and so now you as a company have to realign yourself with your customers. They are beginning to expect recycling, more conscientious water use and a reduced percentage of production as waste — just as examples.

The whole green movement is based on empowering people, and that’s why I think direct marketing as a channel in this effort is so important. You have to speak to the individual about the importance of these issues — it goes down to the personal level.

There are a lot of big companies that are already doing a lot for the environ­ment and they should be telling their customers about what they do, so that the consumer can feel good about mak­ing a purchase and build loyalty with that brand based on shared values.

One of the things about green marketing is you must stay true to the overall image of the company when you are putting out a green marketing campaign. Consider the tone.

Too often, a company puts out the green message in isolation from the rest of its marketing message, rather than integrating it with its overall, wide­spread campaign. I think we will soon be seeing a change in that.

Kelly Hlavinka

Managing partner, Colloquy
Established Colloquy Consulting group in 2003

It’s not that I’m anti-green market­ing, it’s just that I believe that green marketing done without strategic thought runs the risk of customers going, “Okay, enough already — I don’t believe it.”

We should be very cognizant that all of us jumping on the bandwagon at the same time — without really thinking about how it aligns with our overall brand message or our overall loyalty strategy — might repel consumers.

As an example, there’s nothing wrong with building a PR halo through the addition of ecologically themed benefits to your loyalty strategy. But, don’t count on driving redemptions and program engagement as a result. In some cases, consumers certainly will respond, but a recent survey we did suggested that these initiatives play a limited role in consumer engagement. And, first-hand experience with our clients suggests that environmental reward engagement will be limited. Loyalty program members will always donate points and miles to victims of major catastrophes such as Exxon Val­dez oil spill. However, most members overwhelmingly choose rewards that fulfill personal, economic and emotion­al desires in an everyday situation.

Bottom line is, if you are rushing to be green and expecting results you have to understand that green mes­sages may be more of a PR play than a behavioral shift play. It’s still about the individual brands and that’s where companies have to get real. If a green message aligns with the overall product message, then it’s worth testing. But, there are other ways to align good causes with your corporate strategy based on your product and your repu­tation in the marketplace.



No one can deny the power and relevance of a well-executed green marketing campaign. Both Atkins and Hlavinka recognize that ecologyis an increasingly hot topic. However, Hlavinka’s argument for consideration of a product’s message and pre-existing reputation really resonate with today’s direct marketer. By all means try green, but test and target before you leap, as Mike San Fratello and Dave Kelly suggest on page 10.

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