Recently I had the honor of participating in two green marketing panels: at the 4th annual Georgia Environmental Conference in Savannah and the Association of Commuter Transportation International Conference in Washington, DC. While the overall green marketing umbrella was the same, the presentations took different directions – the first focusing on green washing; the second on how truly green organizations can cut through the clutter in such a saturated marketplace. Putting these presentations together got me thinking about the whole concept of green marketing.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been almost 11 years since I started working on The Clean Air Campaign. Through that time, I’ve also marketed many other green initiatives and clients. From that perspective, it’s been both exciting and sometimes frustrating to see the explosion taking place in the world of green marketing. Just four years ago, we stayed away from using “sustainable” to talk about a client because much of its audience wouldn’t know what it meant. Today, sustainable is chic. The public education level related to all things green is amazing to see.
But, much like another area we work in – social media marketing – green marketing experts seem to be suddenly everywhere (though I admit there are no criteria for calling yourself an expert). There are dozens of green marketing groups on LinkedIn and elsewhere, and green marketing conferences, Webinars and panel discussions happen every day. This green marketing business seems to have taken on a life of its own too. But is this spotlight on “green marketing” really needed? Isn’t good green marketing just good marketing, after all?
In the interest of full disclosure, I have jumped more than halfway on the green marketing bandwagon. I’ve joined LinkedIn Groups, represent the agency as a proud member of the Green Chamber of the South, and, obviously, I’ve been sharing my own expertise at conferences. But after reporting on the state of the green marketplace and what may or may not constitute greenwashing, both of my presentations found a common thread – they focused on those smart marketing practices needed to tell a green story.
It was clear as I worked through the points that green marketing is, at its core, really no different than financial marketing or hospitality marketing. Great marketing means you need to dig in deep. You need to know your clients and their product or service as if they were your own. A decade ago, I never would have thought I’d be well-versed in not only the science of air pollution, but also in the minutiae of transportation funding. But I am. It helps us succeed on behalf of The Clean Air Campaign. But I can also hold my own in a conversation about payment industry security standards, PCI, because that is the sandbox in which another client plays.
It’s not about being a “green marketer.” It’s all about being a smart marketer.
The bottom line is, green marketing is still marketing. Social media is still media. There are skills and good practices that apply whether you are marketing the Sierra Club or Tide: Know your subject, know your audience, tell a good story, don’t try to mislead the public (you will get called out); and recognize that today, you need to engage with your audience, not just talk at them.