In the age where the word âgreenâ has become less of an adjective for a sustainable movement, and more of a corporate marketing attempt â it seems far too apparent that the cover has been blown as consumers wise up to the realities of green marketing and green branding initiatives.
With the present day economic realities partially to blame, we cannot ignore the fact that we are still faced with a recession. Unfortunately this leaves green branded products taking a heavy hit â as environmentally friendly products are viewed as an unnecessary luxury.
Sales down across the board and itâs hard to believe that it was only a mere 3 years ago, in 2008, when âgreenâ cleaning products like Green Works grossed $100 million in sales for Clorox. Fast forward three years later, sales are topping in at $60 million for Green Works today.
It would be easy to blame this digression solely on the economic downturn, however, most of the negative perceptions of green marketing and branding today are related to greenwashing.
Greenwashing, coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding environmental benefits of a product or service. With claims like âall naturalâ branded on virtually anything today from cookies to cotton and diapers to detergent â consumers are now asking questions.
And rightfully so. Past offenders, including one of the nationâs largest and most recognizable cereal companies, were communicating that their cerealâs had ânatural ingredientsâÂ — when in reality, the corn used had been genetically modified and engineered.
A recent study, done by TerraChoice Environmental â claims that 99% of all products labeled as âgreenâ do not live up to their claims. With green branded products sitting at a higher price point than most consumer products today â consumerâs simply refuse to spend extra money on products that fail to deliver on a viable point of difference.
For CPG companies, consumers (and the planet) to see any future benefit from the sustainable branded business â products claiming to be better for the environment need to do more than sit on the laurels of the branded âgreenâ name.
Putting the resources, energy and focus into changing the process rather than the perception of âgreenâ will be the only way to effectively change consumers spending habits.
Take Tyson Chicken for example. When they were caught labeling their chicken âall naturalâ (when in fact their chicken were being held in factory farms and being fed genetically modified corn) they responded by changing the way they raise their chickens. Today, all fresh branded Tyson Chicken is raised without any antibiotics.
At the end of the day, if you are going to attempt to brand a product as better for the environment, you better make sure the benefits outweigh more than just your companyâs bottom line.Â Green branded products as a marketing ploy are no longer profitable (nor consumer appreciated) options.
Samantha Schroeder, Design Management