Sure, it's tempting to be seduced by the research and apply our creativity to connect the brands we represent with the overwhelming evidence that green marketing isn't just good business, it's a public mandate. But it's not -- the mandate is to build the trust. Gone are the days when companies could talk the talk without walking the walk. Inquisitive consumers don't just feel good about buying products from a known brand icon, they now also want to buy products from a company whose environmental practices they can feel good about.
As David Ogilvy once said, "The consumer is not a moron" and they know immediately when they've been had. In this case, the green mob mentality has led to deep skepticism on the part of the consumers who want their brands to be green. They can't all be so green can they? Who to believe? Who to trust?
In the context of the green issue, it seems where marketers have gone off course and betrayed consumer trust is in not asking themselves how their product truly delivers on what the consumer wants.
At our agency, we work on behalf of a wide cross section of brands and we have been careful to "go green" with only a select few of them. Our criterion is simple: Don't mess with the trust. Stay true to the principles of branding. If there is an environmental component at the heart of the brand's promise, we treat it as we would any other brand asset. If not, we stay away.
Case in point: we recently engaged in a brand repositioning exercise for our commercial and school bus client. As we developed the company's brand strategy, our mandate wasn't to find creative ways to help them get green, but rather to evaluate what role their green credentials played in the larger strategy of highlighting their customer-centric approach to building buses and servicing bus customers.
As we conducted our brand audit, the company's commitment to deliver more environmentally responsible products was an unmistakable component of their brand story. (At the time, they were on the cusp of building the first hybrid school bus and were taking an innovative stand on delivering 2010 emissions-compliant buses across the board.) Along the way we stayed true to never violating the trust of the company's loyal customers and potential new ones. Now its green message is delivered only in the context of the larger brand promise and only when it is tied to credible activities of the company.
At the heart of every great brand is the intersection between what consumers need and how a product uniquely delivers that need. How they intersect is critical. It's not just about saying you can fill a need -- it's about the true credentials of a product to deliver on that need. So let's get back to basics. If building trust with consumers is the core tenet of brand building and brand management, let's use consumer trust as our best guidepost as we try to solve the answer of when to go green and how green to go.