The Green Marketing Manifesto
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The Green Marketing Manifesto

John Grant

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eBook - ePub

The Green Marketing Manifesto

John Grant

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About This Book

We are currently eating, sleeping and breathing a new found religion of everything 'green'. At the very heart of responsibility is industry and commerce, with everyone now racing to create their 'environmental' business strategy. In line with this awareness, there is much discussion about the 'green marketing opportunity' as a means of jumping on this bandwagon.

We need to find a sustainable marketing that actually delivers on green objectives, not green theming.Marketers need to give up the many strategies and approaches that made sense in pure commercial terms but which are unsustainable. True green marketing must go beyond the ad models where everything is another excuse to make a brand look good; we need a green marketing that does good.

The Green Marketing Manifesto provides a roadmap on how to organize green marketing effectively and sustainably. It offers a fresh start for green marketing, one that provides a practical and ingenious approach. The book offers many examples from companies and brands who are making headway in this difficult arena, such as Marks & Spencer, Sky, Virgin, Toyota, Tesco, O2 to give an indication of the potential of this route. John Grant creates a 'Green Matrix' as a tool for examining current practice and the practice that the future needs to embrace. This book is intended to assist marketers, by means of clear and practical guidance, through a complex transition towards meaningful green marketing. Includes a foreword by Jonathon Porritt.

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The Green Marketing Grid


Green marketing is ‘in’. Everyone says ‘it is a good idea’. No one seems to agree quite what it is. The problem right now is that we have a blanket term ‘green marketing’. And of course, there is not just one type of green marketing, but many. I am going to explore 18 different types. And that is only an initial survey, one that covers the examples that have emerged so far. Why 18 types? Because they are derived from a structured 3 × 3 × 2 analytic approach to what green marketing is for.
There are three broad types of green marketing objectives:
  1. (Green). Setting new standards in responsible products, policies and processes.
  2. (Greener). Sharing responsibility with customers.
  3. (Greenest). Supporting innovation – new habits, services, business models.
The green/-er/-est distinction refers to the marketing objectives; does the marketing itself achieve just commercial outcomes? Or does it also achieve green outcomes? Or culture change too? It’s not a value judgement though. It only refers to the objectives of the marketing itself, what you would measure to decide if it succeeded. A green substitute product (like an electric sports car) which sets a new standard in the motor industry but is given a straightforward marketing sell on its individual benefits (e.g. the coolness of sci-fi technology to geeks) could still be the greenest approach in totality. But you’d only measure the actual marketing on cars sold, not changes in driving. The clever thing was deciding to make it just like a supercar; the new Tesla does 0–60 in around four seconds and looks like a Lamborghini on steroids. But the marketing itself will probably be very straightforward – motor shows, pr, ads and so on.
There are also three levels at which any marketing (including green) can operate:
  1. Personal (product/benefits/individual).
  2. Social (brand meanings/herd instincts/tribes/communities).
  3. Public (company as credible source, as cultural leader or partner).
Through this analytical process we arrive at a 3×3 grid (Figure 4), which helps us see the possibilities and the diversity within green marketing.
Just having a framework is immensely helpful in avoiding confusing and conflating different approaches. There is no suggestion that any one of these approaches within the grid is better. ‘Better’ is only meaningful on a case-by-case basis – the best choice for this product, company or brand. It really depends what you are marketing, what sort of company you are. You have to find your own place in this matrix.
I developed this grid through researching (case studies, articles, papers and blogs) to try to develop a comprehensive study. There will always be examples that fall between these strictly classified boxes, but I mainly wanted to point to the variety and the need to discriminate between different sorts of green marketing. Before we go into those sorts of details on the boxes within the grid, let’s step through the three columns and three rows of the grid and ensure that we get our bearings.
Figure 4 Blank grid

A. Green – Setting New Standards for Responsible Products, Services, Brands, Companies

This is classical marketing applied to green(er) products, brands and companies – ones which set new standards. What I mean by green(er) is greener than the substitutes and competitors rather than measured against any absolute ideal. The level reached by pioneering brands one year may be absolutely expected of all the next year. Sustainability is a moving target.
In terms of the three green marketing objectives, this activity addresses only the first:
  • Commercial outcomes
  • Green outcomes
  • Cultural outcomes
To be more precise, the second two objectives are ‘taken care of’ by what is being marketed. A company has got its act together. It has made many reforms to its supply chain, sourcing and so on. If the truth be known, most people don’t want to know every detail. But as consumers, they can make the world a greener place by buying their products and not alternatives. These companies can contribute to a culture of green too, for instance if they have grown the market for greener product types, or those under a heading like the ‘eco-friendly’ label. But mainly it’s about ‘leave it to us’.
This is marketing as usual. Specifically, the marketing dollars are spent on generating awareness and perceived superiority; it is a selling job, and a communication model. The individual receivers of these messages have little part to play, other than voting with their wallets. These approaches will cause minimal disruption in marketing circles. They know the drill. But of course with less pain may come less gain. Conversely, if you go to your marketing department with your CSR strategy, this is the default option that they or their agencies will likely consider. And in some (but only some) circumstances it is the right way to go. The only question in this approach is whether you really are setting new standards or whether you are just asking your agency to massage and select existing operations; making something normal seem greener. This is called greenwashing. It’s not a good idea, not only because it is fibbing but also because you will be found out, exposed as a fraud and lose value, trust and pretension to leadership. Conversely, being credible (in a world where people are very cynical about marketing claims) is difficult and much of the interest in the strategies and examples discussed is around how to get people to believe that you are setting new standards for real. The easiest thing being of course to establish such a big lead, with such a bold CSR/innovation programme, that it is obvious. Ford struggles to convince people it is serious about greener cars, but Toyota doesn’t.
The key guideline for marketing in this column is keeping it factual. Announce what you are doing, use an eco-label, get people to taste your chocolate; and all these cases leave them free to conclude for themselves that you are better. I don’t mean your marketing has to be dull. Just that it has to be rigorously true. Better to be a bit humble than risk stretching the truth (you will get found out). Truth in advertising is very difficult. It is easier to execute these strategies well in other ways, through PR, online and so on.

B. Greener – Sharing Responsibility with Customers

This is a natural approach for those brands and companies which espouse what I have called New Marketing in my previous books. This is collaborative and participative. It embraces such developments as word of mouth, brand experiences and events, education and community. It’s what I have been writing about for the past ten years.
In terms of our three objectives, it is tackling the first two explicitly:
  • Commercial outcomes
  • Green outcomes
  • Cultural outcomes
An example is Ariel asking people to wash their clothes at 30 degrees (not higher). This is good for the environment; in their trials they found that it saved around 40% of the energy used. And it is also good brand marketing; it builds relationships and interest in a dull sector, it reinforces the quality perceptions of Ariel (it is so good at getting your clothes clean it barely needs hot water). It is good marketing in every sense. In this column, advertising is often actually okay, because you are not selling your greenness, you are trying to involve people in a public scheme, community or activity. It doesn’t often add up to changing behaviour much, beyond your narrow category. People recycle (over 90% do) but this doesn’t translate into buying things with less wasteful packaging in the first place. But with decent products and great marketing, there is lots of mileage in this whole collaborative approach – and for many mainstream brands it may feel as far as you can credibly go at this stage.

C. Greenest – Shaping a New Culture of Responsibility Through Innovation

We are on the verge of a green innovation revolution. It’s already started in fact. The next ten years will see revolutionary new ideas in smart eco-homes, in travel, in retailing, working patterns and quite possibly in government regulation and taxation too. What all these changes may add up to is a dramatically greener way of life. There is so much waste and inefficiency in the current arrangements. We don’t need to travel 1500 miles to have a discussion with some of our colleagues, nor do green beans and fruit out of season need to travel this far to make nourishing and appetising meals.
IT, and web 2.0 in particular, will be a major enabler of these changes. You can scale a local, low-key approach into something (like Craigslist or Freecycle) with colossal efficiency. Network technologies are opening the market to radically new business models. Most are the conversion of products into services that meet the same need (for instance, car pooling vs car owning) and the interplay between nonmoney and money economies; utilities built by volunteers and businesses co-created with volunteers (if that sounds too ‘hippy’ consider Amazon reviews).
The key challenge is the need to combine radical new products, services and daily habits with utterly normal and acceptable cultural codes. It’s just the same as the challenge faced by the early dotcoms. It’s hard to remember now how much resistance there was in the mid 1990s; people scared to give their credit card details, scared the e-businesses weren’t for real, were too ‘intangible’. The breakthrough e-businesses knew how to bring in traditional chunks of culture to clothe their digitising of markets; it wasn’t a bucket shop it was, it wasn’t a social network it was friends reunited.
This is where the innovators – both the product, service and business designers and also the lifestyle habit pioneers – need our help. Their ideas are often being incubated with an audience of green geeks who will work with this stuff raw. It is our job to help cook it in a way that can become ‘the new normal’. It’s partly a design challenge and partly a cultural myth-making challenge.
That’s why this column of approaches goes the furthest in tackling all three objectives:
  • Commercial outcomes
  • Green outcomes
  • Cultural outcomes
That covers the columns of the grid, what about the rows? The personal–social–public split is basic sociology, for instance Max Weber’s analysis of society as operating simultaneously on these three (partially) independent levels.

1. Public – Company Story, Engagement...

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