But, is there any potential for the iPhone and green marketing? Can the iPhone truly help promote a greener and better planet? If so, how are brands leveraging this, and will brands be able to effectively leverage the iPhone in their green marketing plans somewhere down the road? The short answers are: yes, no they're not (well, barely), and absolutely. In other words, opportunity knocks for agencies, companies and good ol' Mother Earth on the iPhone platform.
After having performed a variety of searches both online and through the iTunes store (under "environment," "green," "cause" and "causes"), the only company that stood out as even having a green/ cause marketing spin on an app is Pepsi, with an iPhone extension of its Refresh Everything campaign.
You can see a typical and clear chronological evolution of apps in terms of complexity, novelty and utility. The CowFart app was all the rage in 2009, measuring the carbon footprint of bovine flatulence. Now, though, apps are beginning to show a higher degree of technical complexity and utility.
Good Guide employs technology that I wasn't even aware of, until such time as I used this app. With a combination of the iPhone's built in camera, and some basic image recognition technology, Good Guide allows you to scan barcodes to find out about relevant environmental and health information. The database for Good Guide is still relatively small (as evidenced by a few common consumer products still not being included in the database).
But, there is a "submission for new products option", which helps increase the database. The other complaint is that the scanner doesn't currently handle small barcodes. This to me is less a problem with the program, and more a problem for the products that are missing an opportunity to be recognized.
The product that opened my eyes to the potential of Good Guide's technology was a skin cream, which showed a reasonable environment rating, good corporate track record (society rating), but contained some suspected toxins for a low health score. A very thorough product profile could be shared via email, twitter or Facebook. The product could also be purchased through Amazon, and the company's other products were also featured. One word: wow.
The other common technical feature on the iPhone is the accelerometer. This little piece of tech has brought us the beer-pouring app, motocross- and racing car-style games, and more than a few level tools.
GreenMeter is a valiant effort at using this same technology to track your driving style. It measures your cornering, accelerating and braking tendencies, providing you with a score, which you can benchmark against for future improvement, thus achieving greater fuel efficiency. The occasional lack of consistency with the application may have more to do with the underlying technology itself. But, as mentioned earlier, Apple is a company known for constant improvement so, as new versions of the iPhone emerge, the app will certainly benefit.
In these early days of application experimentation, it's not a huge surprise that brands have not jumped onto any green/ cause bandwagon too quickly. For marketers, this presents a pioneering opportunity to help direct clients' or employers' efforts. My suggestion is to become familiar with this technology, and applications (like Good Guide) that might start gaining steam. Aside from developing and designing clever or useful applications, you should also be intimately aware of how your brand fares given that this technology is increasingly at everyone's fingertips.
Do you have any other darling green iPhone apps or perhaps ideas of how this game-changing technology can be leveraged for both companies and the planet? If so, please share below!