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Green is a great product marketing term. It’s almost perfect for every context, from those that are concerned about environmental impact, through to activists.
In between, there is a cultural change occurring and it is having a deep and lasting impact on marketing.
This middle ground is what I’d describe as Professional Green. This is a marketing space where brands can establish their credentials as aware, caring and proactive when it comes to The Environment.
Unfortunately early attempts to mix product marketing with environmental issues were branded as “green wash”.
That phrase was created purely as a negative response to the over-enthusiastic engagement by many brands that perhaps put more focus on being seen to be concerned about the environment, than actually having a positive impact.
I doubt that there is a single company or brand in the world that wants to be associated with “green wash” but how do brands move beyond green references to actually making a difference?
Put simply, consumers want to know whether or not the products they are buying are environmentally-friendly, or all least neutral, and offer some sort of cultural or environmental benefit.
For example, when people think about buying a product, possibly the last thing on their mind is how much noise it makes. But we have a wealth of studies that show how noise has a serious mental and physical impact on our daily lives.
The World Health Organisation recently published a report on this subject that confirmed excessive noise “can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour”.
Saying your brand is environmentally responsible is not enough, proving it is the key. To do this we need to move beyond a simple focus on reducing environmental impact, which should be a prerequisite. Instead we need to deliver a real benefit from our environmental or cultural claims that will help us to develop a viable relationship with our customers and potential customers.
If we return to the noise-based example, the truth is that we need to take much more care of our aural environment because it has such a profound effect on our lives. There is so much good work going on that should help us create better “soundscapes” in our personal and communal lives, but to date knowledge of this work and its potential impact has been limited.
For brands, the focus should be that they understand the need for quieter products and know how much their customers want these. Do our household appliances really need to be so loud?
However, while this quiet movement is in its early stage, there is always an issue of cost, and that is where brands must engage with their customers to provide a compelling case for spending a little more to get a great deal more.
I believe that brands need to provide real proof of cultural product innovation, both scientifically and through increase in sales to the product in question. Many companies and brands are indeed allocating significant budget to the measurement of noise, developing more precise metrics than just the simple decibel level.
For example, global brands such as Lexus, Electrolux, Rockwool, Samsung, Phillips and Yamaha are working with Quiet Mark, the non-profit trading arm of the Noise Abatement Society, to develop and verify products that are genuinely quieter.
Each of these brands has a deep commitment to developing products that reduce unnecessary noise.
They know that this attention to a particular element of our environment has and will continue to increase sales, as well as build strong customer relationships.
Sound is a central part of most people’s lives. The reshaping of that element of our shared environment is urgently needed – and marketers can help by proving that brands are moving into a quieter space, because they understand they impact on our daily lives.
I believe that the market for domestic and industrial products are moving rapidly towards a quieter future and professional marketers can both strengthen the brands’ reputation and increase its authority through proof-based conversation that focuses on delivering a quieter environment.
In our experience, some of the key benefits in using a cultural benefit to promote a brand include:
- Raised awareness.
- Deeper relationships with existing customers.
- New customers.
- Increased sales.
Using a cultural or environmental theme such as “Quiet” as a central part of marketing campaigns is, to my mind, a step forward and a clear business advantage. Witness, for example, the hugely successful Lexus Quiet Revolution campaign, featuring Kylie Minogue.
Campaigns such as this introduce positive ideas of valuable benefit into our daily lives, while still delivering the product benefits we expect.