It's Easy Being Green

We've heard it repeated many times: Social media advertising requires that brands become more human. Green marketing is one way to achieve the requisite degree of humanity required within social network marketing.

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.

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6 comments about "It's Easy Being Green ".
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  1. Helga Del Toro, June 10, 2009 at 12:59 p.m.

    Its about real honesty, consumers are inteligent they will know if you are acting with hipocrasy. And its about consistency, not a flight by night initiative - evaluate each initiative at short and long term, look beyond numbers and ROI!

  2. Jonathan Hall from American Pop, June 10, 2009 at 1:11 p.m.

    We love working on Social Media campaigns that incorporate a green component. For one, it's just good Karma! Also, if done right, you are tapping into a passionate subject and leveraging passions online is powerful. Though, faking sincerity and passion can backfire big time.

  3. Jan Zlotnick from the zlotnick group, June 10, 2009 at 2:15 p.m.

    The answer to how we can ensure "real good" is accept the human behavior that's at play. Tie agency compensation and/or brand tax break to a defined "real good" metrics. And if this sounds LOL to most agencies and brands, that's the point: the one leader who fights for this, will be the leader who is justly rewarded by the marketplace.

  4. Christopher Laurance from Distraction Marketing, June 10, 2009 at 2:35 p.m.

    I'd suggest creating a baseline "green philosophy" for yourself then using that when speaking with customers.

    I wrote my master's thesis on "the relationship of man and nature". My conclusion (at an early age) - man is an "evolutionary catalyst" and should consider all of its actions/behaviors in terms of what kind of "evolution" it would like to see.

    Translating this into "Green Marketing"- make sure your clients are legitimately about "regeneration", not "sustainability". One builds the future, the other hopes it doesn't get any worse.

    Once you've determined that your clients are legitimate, then produce messaging that substantiates that to a prospect/consumer. Green washing is so prevalent, we might as well just accept that all "oil companies" are the most "green corporations" on the planet, even though they may be the most polluting.

    Lastly, listen to an old Neil Young line - "look at mother nature on the run in the 1970's)- this is an old problem, been around for years (if you believe Neil Young)- so habits will have to change in order to be regenerative. Habits are what we don't like changing, so make sure your messaging provides a reward for changing habits.

  5. Brad Stewart from Molecule Inc., June 10, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.

    Thanks for the comments and support everyone.

    Jan: I hope you're right about just rewards!!! ;)

    Christopher makes a good point. The genuineness that I'm espousing is more synonymous with adopting new habits than maintaining old ones.

    It is certainly an old problem, but I'm noticing more every day that -as creative directors, media pros, and agency leaders- we are in a unique position to help change these habits.

  6. Maryanne Conlin from RedRopes Digital/4GreenPs, June 11, 2009 at 8:50 a.m.

    Great piece, Brad,

    I find marketing today in a social media world wonderful for any brand manager, creative director or AE who has struggled to channel his or her passion in a push marketing world. The new consumer engagement model lets us really show that passion in a multitude of ways.

    Smart brands let the people who worked on green marketing campaigns show that passion through a variety of supporting messages on their own personal social media networks, often helping the message go viral!

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