The positive outcomes can be greater "permission reach", increased creative opportunities, and brand acceptance. However, we have to be cautious (as my 1-year-old son reminds me when wielding a screwdriver) because green marketing -- like any tool -- needs to be employed properly.
Within our upside-driven media metrics lexicon, we often forget to calculate an important factor: pollution. Three common metrics in brand media are brand awareness (offline and online), positive brand association, and purchase intent. A marketer's job is to increase these metrics, with the eventual goal of creating brand loyalty and purchase habit. Of all these upside terms, the negative effect of a media or marketing play often gets little attention.
How many people feel worse about your product because of your campaign? How much unnecessary noise was created in order to gain maximal reach? If used properly, green marketing can reduce the likelihood of negative brand-association, particularly within interruptive advertising, by softening your message. Green marketing has the power to make a company seem more like a girl guide than a vacuum cleaner salesman, when knocking at viewers' colloquial doors.
Another useful aspect of green marketing is that it increases your campaigns' creative options. Instead of "buy our butter," an e-marketer can also drive views by raising awareness of the effect of topsoil erosion on global food security, if some commitment has been made to related initiatives. More creative tools become available, and increased permissions are granted within communities that care about these issues.
But, how can we insure that our campaigns are leveraging the defensive, brand-building power, viral effects, creative options and positive brand association of a good green marketing campaign, particularly within the finicky world of social media? We don't want to suffer from the same fatigue as improperly positioned incentive campaigns.
In order to gain acceptance in social media, companies must behave like real human beings. This means displaying understanding, concern, commitment and humor, while leveraging massive budgets to reach out to, rather than fly by, humanity.
Companies should ask what real good a campaign achieved aside from the goal of increased ROI. Will we be closer to curbing global warming or raising awareness about autism? The point is to be more compassionate, rather than just going through the motions. Just like the most compassionate person in any given town is not the one who gives the most to charity, compassion in the brand sense also does not just mean throwing money around. This must become a real part of a corporation's intentionality in order not to be called out as disgenuine within social media.
One piece of advice for anyone designing a green marketing campaign is to use your intuition, gut and heart. Just like a good creative director can sense when ad copy has hit the right balance of hype and restraint, a green marketer must be able to identify and feel when it has struck the right human chords.
Leverage those marketing dollars to not only act like a good corporate citizen, but actually be a leader in sustainable social investment. Raise the bar so that your campaign not only gains increased ROI, but also gives you the shivers. Let the worse case scenario be flat line ROI (which can happen anyways), and creating a better world.