Contributed Article
July 26, 2012

When Green Is The Lowest Common Denominator…

Ten years ago, being green was great for marketing. It was unique, it was innovative, it was thoughtful…it was a real marketplace differentiator. Now it’s simply expected.

Your product is made from organic ingredients? Of course, it is. Your product is sustainable? I should hope so. You used recycled materials for packaging? Well, what else would you use?

So what does this mean for marketers? It means they’re back to square one: they need to have a great product—not just a green one.

If you’re in the green-product marketing biz and have been relying on your portfolio’s green-ability to float you these last few years, now is the time to start considering some new tactics. To start, make sure you are very clear on the type of products you represent:

  1. I work with great products whose differentiators transcend beyond their green-ness.
  2. I work with mediocre products that wouldn’t stand a chance without green messaging.

In either case, you’re going to want to get a new shtick. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t continue touting the fact that your products are green. Green may be becoming the lowest common denominator—an assumed factor with less and less marketing clout—but it’s still a barrier to entry, so you need to make it known. Just don’t rely on it to carry your campaign as far as it once did.

If you’re working with mediocre to downright bad products, moving beyond green messaging could be rough. Your choice here is either to step into hero role and offer your client (or parent company) some tips on how to improve the product so that it’s actually viable on its own. Or just start making things up. Yep, when in doubt, distract people with “clever” yet insubstantial messaging. I don’t endorse this, but I’ve seen it in the movies.

Here are three other approaches that will help you supplement your existing messaging in a market saturated with green:

Don’t make people imagine the possibilities.

The worst thing you can do is rely on other peoples’ imaginations to do all the heavy lifting. When describing an idea that exists in your mind—whether about a thing or an abstract concept—realize that it probably doesn’t look the same in others’ minds. And sometimes, it can look downright awful.

For that reason, you’ve got to spell it out. Instead of hoping consumers will see all the possible ways a product can benefit their lives; tell them. And make sure you tell different people different things—the things that are specifically relevant to solving their problems, not the problems of your five other target audiences.

Tell the product’s story. 

When a product is affiliated with popular buzzwords, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that it might have an interesting story to tell. After all, it’s so much easier to tell the low-hanging-fruit story: “organic!” “cruelty-free!” “reduced carbon footprint!” “no trees were hurt in the production of this product!” You get it.

Now that your heavy reliance on tired green messaging is a thing of the past (like how I just did that?), it’s up to you to dive in deep, unearth the hidden treasures, and honor that story by sharing it with the world.

The good news is that the story’s still there—it’s been there the whole time—it’s just getting a little tired of waiting for you.

Educate people.

This is an inverse of the first tip—the one where you stopped making people read your mind. In fact, educating the people who could potentially benefit from your product requires you to read their minds.

Start by determining what problems they’re trying to solve. You can do this in one of two ways: traditional telepathy or, more commonly, through deductive reasoning. What does your product do? How does it do it? And what insights were involved in its creation? Put these in a blender and suddenly, you’ve got a slew of solutions. This is where the magic of deductive reasoning comes in. By reviewing the problems you solve and the insights responsible for creating the product, you can conclude that people in need of such insights must have the problems that you solve (and are therefore in need of your product).

Educational content is the way you then make a direct connection between their problems and your solutions, and ultimately help them make an informed buying decision. Ta-da!

Clearly, this is just an introduction to the great big world that awaits you beyond green-for-the-sake-of-green marketing. Enjoy the journey and rest assured: no trees were hurt in the production of this article.