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How to Market Green Products in 2016


The marketing of “Green”, “Earth Friendly”, or “Eco-Friendly” products is appealing to virtually every company today. This approach to marketing has slowly grown over the last few decades and the addition of the Millennials to the consumer market has created an even larger demand for Green Products.

Initially, most companies just looked at their existing products and asked the Marketing Team – What is Green about this? That is the premises of the cartoon. You can’t do that in 2016. We used to think that paper plates were bad because they came from cutting down trees.

Don’t believe me. In the last few months the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has inflicted fines and penalties on companies like Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, JC Penny, Sherwin-Williams, and Kmart for misleading green labeling. These companies not only received financial penalties they also received the negative attention of consumers that were mislead. Not good.

Just walking through any retail store you can see vague claims to products that would be hard to prove and are potentially deceptive. The over site of these marketing claims by the stores and government is thin. The FTC does have a Green Guide that list some general rules for claims for Degradable, Compostable, Recyclable, Non-Toxic and the guide can be helpful.

While the threat of fines and bad press is real, I think deceptive marketing tactics degrade the company’s relationship with consumers. Ultimately it denigrates the brand. So while your marketing team looks to market products more Green, here are some guidelines to consider:

  1. Be Specific – The mantra of the FTC’s Green Guide is to be specific. If something is “Eco-Friendly” it is imperative to explain why somewhere on the package. Don’t just say something is Recyclable. Recycling is different in many communities and products that are recyclable in some may not be in others. You must be specific to note that it “may not recyclable in some communities”.

  2. Dig Deeper – For example something is not necessarily “Sustainable” because it is plant based. Research your source to see if your product is managed under a sustainable program. You should know more about your product than anyone and therefore satisfy your marketing claims.

  3. Provide More Information Rather Than Less – Customers are more astute than many marketers assume. Providing more information in packaging, inserts, and/or on your website is best. If you get to the point that providing more information is not best for the company you should consider not making the claim.

  4. Be Truthful – If you are in the business of tricking your customers I think your days in business will be short. Those days are over.

  5. Get Validation – Any third party validation of your marketing claim can be helpful. This validation can come from one of the 300 or so Certifications or Seals. One popular third party certification is Green Seal . This comes at a cost and it takes time for the certification companies to test the products but it can provide some confidence to consumers.

2016 will likely introduce more products that are marketed as Green than any prior year. While consumer demand for Green products grows so does consumer knowledge about the products. Following the 5 guidelines above will build customer trust and create loyal long-term profitable relationships.

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