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Green guide

GREEN MARKETING, OPPORTUNITY FOR INNOVATION·Second edition·Jacquelyn A Ottman· NTC Business Books, USA, 1998

Published: Sunday 28 February 1999

anti-pollution hoardings (Credit: PHOTOGRAPHS: AMIT SHANKER / CS)BEING market savvy is what business is all about. And green's the word in business today. Keeping up with the times, some companies have already gone "green". How to go about informing the lay public and the consumer at large that a product consumes less natural resources, is pollution-free or recycles more is what Green Marketing, Opportunity for Innovation is about. Authored by an environment marketing expert, the book provides the "a" to "zee" information on green marketing and is laced liberally with ample case studies from the US and Europe.

The people are worried and some are even willing to pay more if it means saving the planet. As environmental-friendly products are moving from shelves in dingy shops to speciality stores and department stores, their sales are soaring.

Realising that environment and economic concerns are not necessarily mutually exclusive, many companies are realising that environment concerns are here to stay. Thus the best way to beat censure is to toe the line and get green. With all the information that is pouring, companies are now better equipped in dealing with ecological issues and they use this as a chance to boost their corporate image.

There is a big market out there, all it needs is a proper marketing strategy because, while conventional marketing simply means developing products that meet consumers' needs at affordable prices, green marketing is much more complex.

After two decades of floundering with marketing of green products, replete with examples of exaggerated claims, green companies are finally getting learning how to market their products. To their pleasant surprise, these products are increasingly being picked up by a growing number of "eco-conscious" consumers. The author declares, "Conventional marketing is out. Green marketing is in."

A word about the green consumer. Green consumers come in different shades of green and with a gender bias. The women seem to be more concerned because it is they who run the household. Thus, they are the target of green marketers. The new green marketing paradigm requires that the consumer be viewed as someone with a "life" as against "lifestyle", who considers environmental, social, political and economical issues before consumption, who prefers high quality at low price and with minimal effect on the environment. And for the company which has something green to sell, the marketing has to be as good as the best.

The success of any green product results in tangible benefits to the environment only if the product sells: of what use are unsold energy saving and water saving washing machines if they languish unsold? Thus green communication is important and empowers the consumer with knowledge and provides choices.

Some companies have come out with innovative methods of marketing their product. Stonyfield Farm of Londonderry, uk, is one such example. It produces one of the most healthy and nutritious yoghurt and other dairy products while supporting social and environment related beneficial causes. Its marketing strategy? Interactive programmes designed towards consumer awareness. In the "flip your lid" programme, the lids on the yogurt cups become ready-made letters to the sitting Congress members exhorting them to vote in favour of the planet. All that was required from the consumer was a signature, and postage. Understandably, the campaign was a big hit with the Congress facing the brunt of many messages that read, "Congress have you flipped your lid?"

One point that green companies need to watch out for is the loss of credibility and an unexpected backlash. Claims thus need to be precise, true and to the point.

The book thus stresses that selling environment-friendly products is almost as difficult as cleaning it up. It entails much more than a new package, using recycled material instead of virgin ones and natural and organic ingredients instead of artificial ones. However, successful businesses have realised that at the end of the day a business is going to be assessed by its profits as well as contribution to human potential and harmony with other resources, both natural and artificial. The bottom line, is happily, thus double.

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