Monday, May 07, 2007

Should you apply the green lipstick? (by Samantha Taylor)

There is a lot of lip service being paid to the environment by marketers of all stripes. Is it authentic? A ‘greening of business’ cover story in Advertising Age (here) suggests the answer may be no in some cases.

For marketers, the more important question is whether or not donning “green lipstick” will ultimately pay off down the road.

Not if you’re not real about it.

According to Ad Age, while companies are flocking to add green to their marketing platforms, their true environmental conscience is being questioned. Hmm. The issue of consumer distrust that haunts marketers at every turn seems to be in play here. The learning for would-be trustmeisters: It takes a lot more than clever advertising to convince consumers that you’re serious about embarking down the road of sustainability.

Examples of companies who are doing more than wearing the green lipstick include Intel and GE. Both are developing sustainable programs. Will such emphasis pay off for them? GE says it will grow revenues that provide some kind of environmental benefit to $20 billion by 2010.

GE is being more authentic than most, but it still has its critics. Our take here is that as companies engage more actively in issues of societal responsibility, they also must beef up communications programs – with particular emphasis on dialoguing with stakeholders and critics alike.

We expect to see continuing debate in executive suites on what to do about this issue, particularly because in our view the payoff potential can be significant. Considering that $179 billion was invested in socially responsible mutual funds in 2005, moving beyond mere conscience touting seems not only sensible, but profitable.

Fellow trustmeister Jarvis Cromwell points out in a previous post (here), that the LOHAS consumer segment is a growing and highly desirable market. New industries will emerge, and reputations and empires will be built, as we see the greening of corporate America.

And need we say that future generations are depending on it?

Less lip service please. True brand trustmeisters will do more by re-engaging with nature, science and the bottom line in an authentic way.

Our advice: Don’t move forward on green efforts until you’re ready to be real. That means first aligning causes with business operations and stakeholder communities, and then backing your actions up with strong communications.

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