Apparently, green marketing is dead. In the past months, several media outlets have reported about the so-called death of green marketing, relying on studies that show that consumers are (still) not changing their purchasing behavior based on green claims. Price remains the number-one criteria for purchasing decisions, so now we are being told that if your marketing message is to succeed, the green angle must be mixed in adroitly with price and quality attributes.
But the whole notion of green marketing just seems out of date with the evolving discussion on corporate responsibility. Just as professionals in this field expect companies to change their business models to embrace social and environmental responsibility, shouldn’t we expect the same from marketing and communications?
Recent developments in CSR, especially Michael E. Porter’s notion of creating shared value, seem at odds with what seems to be a fairly traditional understanding of sustainability and communications. If green marketing is indeed just a way to communicate the real (or unfortunately still too often – the unreal) ‘greenness’ of a product, then perhaps it should die, or least, be demoted to the level of niche tool, only justified in the cases where one-way product marketing still makes sense.
The consumer will reward and listen to the companies that are serious about sustainability. And if these companies are indeed serious about social and environmental change, that is, if they truly believe in sharing value with society, then their communication should reflect this. This means that companies must go beyond the one-way messaging of traditional marketing. Through their green communication, they must engage stakeholders, and must be willing to provide them with value.
The best way to do this is to create content that is relevant and interesting. The message is no longer only about the company, or the company’s services and products; the message is now about subject matters and topics of relevance to users. Through this valuable content companies can create the required connection with stakeholders that will lead to awareness, trust, loyalty, and then, hopefully to purchase. But this valuable content can only exist if value sharing becomes part of the philosophy of everything a company does, including communications.
Photo credit: Luc De Leeuw
Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/