Green Ads

The corporate world in Japan is wooing the environmentally conscious consumer by going green

By Worawan Ongkrutraksa
Published: Monday 15 January 2001

-- for the world of marketing, in Japan the colour green is fast becoming a hot favourite. The number of advertisements attempting to present an ecofriendly green image of the product or the business has increased over the years. Responding to the increased awareness about the environment among the people, the advertisers are, much more than ever before, trying to reach out to the 'green' consumer. They have started incorporating environment-based themes into their marketing strategy.
How green? Marketing and advertising firms in Japan are aware that today many Japanese are comforted by the fact that they are buying ecofriendly, recycled or organically grown products. Many companies in Japan have launched advertisements and marketing campaigns to coax the green-minded to buy their products. In the advertising world's parlance it is called, simply, "green advertising".

Green advertising advertisements and marketing activities include:

Explicitly or implicitly addresses the relationship between a product or service and the environment.

Draws a link between an ecofriendly lifestyle by highlighting a product or service.

Presents a corporate image of an environmentally responsible organisation.

Green advertising got national recognition in the early 1990s when a Volvo automobile company published an advertisement in the Nikkei newspaper with the catch phrase "Our products are polluting the noise and air". This highlighted the niche for ecofriendly products and launched a trend that in the coming years was taken up by many other businesses.

In March 1997, Kirin Beer, a well-known Japanese firm launched a green advertising campaign through the media. It tried to create a positive image by putting on display for the consumers its green credentials -- its corporate policy to reduce, reuse, recycle and assess.

In 1997, the annual advertising report by Dentsu Incorporated, the biggest advertising agency in Japan, observed that the number of green advertisements was increasing. Interestingly, it also stated that not only were these advertisements promoting the ecofriendly image of corporate world, they were also providing useful information on environmental issues. It gave the examples of the Toyota ecoproject and the new Mitsubishi engine promotion campaign. The report mentioned that most of the green advertising was being undertaken by the automobile industry. The industry, said the report, usually focused on the reduction in energy requirement and lower polluting levels of its products.

Further, in 1999, a study funded by the Hideo Yoshida Memorial Foundation of Japan reconfirmed Dentsu's findings. The study affirmed that the advertisers were trying to zoom in on the environmentally conscious consumer. And that the automobile industry was the most involved in such marketing strategies.

On the flip side, an analysis of a survey conducted by the Japanese government's environment research centre showed that 69.3 per cent of the consumers surveyed believed the advertising companies were not providing all relevant information on what the advertisers were actually doing to deal with the environment problem.

It seems, while the corporate world tries its best to put up a green face, the consumer demands more than just 'brand positioning'. The consumer, in Japan, demands factual content in advertisements and marketing campaigns that try to portray the products green.

The author is a doctoral student of mass communications at Tokai University, Kanagawa, Japan

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