Book Review: Green Marketing and Sustainable Branding

Green marketing the old way is gone, long live the new green marketing. This is my key takeaway from The New Rules of Green Marketing. While not directly related to place marketing and branding, the book is still useful for anyone with a (professional) interest in the marketing and branding of products or services.

Most of all, it felt like an honest book and, considering that Jacqueline Ottman, its author is a thought expert and consultant on green branding and marketing, very down to earth and understandable. A good read for anyone, not only the targeted sustainability directors and brand executives and their advertising and PR staff and agencies.

Ottman convincingly argues for the business case of socially and environmentally best practice and sustainability. Not only because “green is now mainstream and cool”, but because life-cycle approaches and other sustainable business strategies can lead to product and service innovation leading to “better consumer value, enhanced brands, and a stronger company.”

Green is no longer simply a market position. Products need to be green. Brands need to be socially responsible. Period.

While customers don’t expect perfection, they do take a critical view on green promises: “It’s not enough to slap on a recycling logo or make a bio-degradability claim. Brands viewed as the most genuine integrate relevant sustainability benefits into their products.” Authenticity and credibility are the magic words.

The key message of the book is that conventional marketing is out, and green marketing, or sustainable branding in:

“A new paradigm is being forged by sustainability leaders that are creatively, authentically, and distinctively addressing the new rules of green marketing. Basic assumptions about how to best cater to consumer needs are being shattered.”

“To successfully market to environmentally and socially aware consumers credibly and with impact requires first that one no longer view people as mere “consumers” with insatiable appetites for material goods, but as human beings looking to lead full, healthy lives.”

Seven strategies for green marketing success in the age of sustainability

1. Understand the deeply held environmental and social beliefs and values of your consumers and other stakeholders and develop a long-term plan to align with them.

2. Create new products and services that balance consumers’ desires for quality, convenience, and affordability with minimal adverse environmental and social impacts over the life of the product.

3. Develop brands that offer practical benefits while empowering and engaging consumers in meaningful ways about the important issues that affect their lives.

4. Establish credibility for your efforts by communicating your corporate commitment and striving for complete transparency.

5. Be proactive. Go beyond what is expected from stakeholders. Proactively commit to doing your share to solve emerging environmental and social problems – and discover competitive advantage in the process.

6. Think holistically. Underscore community with users and with the broad array of corporate environmental and societal stakeholders.

7. Don’t quit. Promote responsible product use and disposal practices. Continuously strive for “zero” impact.

Because credibility is the backbone of any sustainable branding and marketing, Ottman strongly suggests you to: 1) walk your talk; 2) be transparent; 3) don’t mislead; 4) enlist the support of third parties, and 5) to promote responsible consumption.

Greening as a consumer phenomenon is maturing and becoming mainstream: “Manufacturers, retailers, and marketers looking to sustain their businesses long into the future must heed these new rules with communications that empower their consumers to act on pressing issues backed up by a proactive and demonstrated corporate commitment to conducting business in a sustainable way.”

Know Your Green Marketing Audience

We also liked the characterization of the different generations and how each of them views environmental issues slighty differently, yet united by the fact that “every generation is green.” Starting with the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), which “have led the green movement through the values and attitudes they have instilled upon society and have imparted to their children and grandchildren.”

Generation X (apparently also known as the Baby Bust generation, whoever comes up with these terms) are the ones born between 1964 and 1977, features outspoken environmentalists like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. Gen X, according to the book, views “environmental concerns through a lens that aligns social, educational, and political issues.”

Moving on to Generation Y, born between the early 1980s and 1990s, described as tech-savvy with “digital media at their command” (just made it into that one, so pardon me for feeling flattered).

Then there is Gen Z, the youngsters, for whom green is a natural part of their lives: “the first generation to be brought up in an environmentally conscious world, green is a part of their everyday life.”

All in all, a book not only worth reading, but essential literature for those looking for ways to make sure their product or service will survive in a fast changing world driven by socially and environmentally conscious consumers, many of whom have learned to tell the difference between mere green-washing and genuine attempts by companies and brands to do good by doing better.

For more info, reviews and purchasing options, here’s the link to The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding on Amazon.

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