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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Winter 2006 : Green Marketing

Green Marketing

Going Green by Taking Action
Companies should consider direct-response marketing as a tool to motivate mainstream consumers to switch to green products and services.

by Holly Bornstein

There has been a marked increase in green activity in mainstream culture. Organic food is now found beyond the small health-food store. Consider the fact that Publix, a major southeastern U.S. grocery chain, plans to launch two organic-food stores in Palm Beach County, Fla., called GreenWise. (The grocer already features special organic-food sections under this brand name in stores.) The concept store is meant to compete head-to-head with popular Whole Foods Market. And due to the growing interest in personal health, articles focusing on the toxicity of our homes and offices are more prevalent. This is highlighted by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification program, which has created a clear roadmap for environmental construction. As a result, green buildings are cropping up everywhere from Manhattan (such as Tribeca Green) to Middle America (Colorado’s Highlands’ Garden Village—featured in the November 2005 issue of Fortune Small Business).

With this growing focus on green, one of my favorite pastimes over the last few months has been green-ad spotting. Recently, while attending the Co-op America Green Business Conference in San Francisco, I saw a bus decked with a message from Delta Airlines about their organic salads. And in Manhattan and San Francisco, billboards for Toyota scream “Emissions Blow.” It’s exciting to see traditional companies now recognizing that consumers are open to this kind of message.

The question—and challenge—is, how do we get the mainstream consumer—whether a business or an individual—to switch their usage to green products and services?

One key strategy is to utilize direct-response marketing. Companies that sell green-oriented products can get the message to their audience in a more effective way if they employ direct-response marketing tactics (see graphic). Some examples:

• Burt’s Bees, the earth-friendly personal-care-product manufacturer, advertises its products in mainstream magazines such as Organic Style, Parenting and InStyle. Additionally, the company has an active public relations effort going; its lip balm was featured along with Chapstick and some other major brands in a humorous product review in the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. To add some punch to its communications, Burt’s Bees should rent the subscriber list from these publications, send a direct communication stating where the readers can find the product in their area, and include a clear call to action with an incentive (i.e., a coupon, or buy “X” get “Y”). This would push consumers to take action and drive sales.

• Let’s consider a company that sells rechargeable batteries. The company could send a message targeting households with children (today’s toys use an abundance of batteries) inviting them to trade in their non-rechargeable batteries for a sizable break on the recharger. The cost of the recharger is most likely the major barrier to purchase. Once consumers have a recharger in hand, the firm would have an easier time selling the batteries. The company could also collect the e-mail address of the purchasers and ask them to opt-in for future communications. This sets up a cost-effective way to continue talking to these consumers.

• With energy prices escalating, businesses are feeling like they have no control over this overhead cost. Additionally, interest in cleaner energy options is growing. EI Solutions, a California-based renewable energy integrator, targets companies via mail and sends them a simple way to start an evaluation to uncover whether solar power is a good fit for them. EI Solutions provides an immediate service that directly meets a need: a low-hassle process and credible resource to evaluate the solar power option. This mail program consistently provides the firm with quality leads that meet their quantity targets at a sustainable cost.

Interestingly enough, at the recent Co-op America Green Business Conference, one of the main topics was the greening of businesses that already sell environmental products. For example, I was speaking to the general manager of an organic farm who felt that other than the farming practices, the rest of the business was run in a traditional, and not environmentally conscious, way. She expressed a desire to look at all aspects of the business and rethink the processes. Her first order of business was installing alternative energy at the farm.

To draw a parallel to the green products and services industry, when employing direct-response communications, businesses need to approach it responsibly, environmentally and in a targeted manner to minimize waste. Some tips for doing this:

• Utilize e-mail/digital communications whenever possible.

• Print with vegetable/soy-based inks on acid-free recycled paper with high post-consumer-waste content.

• Whenever possible, work with firms that have greened their operations.

• Carefully identify your target market to minimize waste.

Companies and individuals alike can see the future, and it’s looking green. By using direct-response techniques, we can accelerate the adoption of sustainable products and services. That’s not only good for the environment—it’s good for the bottom line.

Holly Bornstein is the founder and principal partner of Propel Marketing, LLC, a direct-marketing firm that specializes in green products and services. She can be reached at

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