Green marketing is still marketing

By in Sustainability Marketing

Green marketing is still marketing

Is marketing your sustainable product or service any different to marketing any other product?

During a conversation some years back with Abigail Forsyth, the CEO of KeepCup, she told me that her first prototypes were in ‘natural colours’ of beige and browns – the exact colour of my first KeepCup.  The team chose neutral colours because they thought the typical customer would not want to be ‘showy’ or that in some way they would prefer the ‘low key’ aspects of a beige cup.

Guess what?  People loved the cup, but started requesting wilder and more outrageous colour combinations, and even suggested the process to enable them to build their own colour combinations.  Contrary to the belief that people wanting sustainability were in to ‘bland’, many customers wanted to tell the world that they were ‘on trend’.

It’s a simple but clear message: companies must make sure that their sustainable products meet the same key motivational needs as any other product.

If you’re marketing a sustainable product, ask yourself:

  1. Is my product highly functional, as well as sustainable? For example, eco laundry powder must clean as well as leading traditional brands.  Free trade coffee and tea must taste as good as non-free trade.  Customers may want ethical and sustainable – but the product must still do the job.
  2. Is there an emotional connection between my product and my customer?  The people behind KeepCup spoke to their customers on an emotional level and reinforced the concept that ‘I am a good person as I am making the world a better place; and everyone knows this when I buy my daily coffee’.  If you are asking people to pay more for your ethical product, you need to appeal to their higher emotions to ensure they part with their cash.
  3. Is there a social connection?  The status that comes from purchasing a product says something publically about a customer’s values – whether that’s purchasing a Hybrid car, buying a unit in a ‘green’ complex or drinking your coffee from a reusable receptacle.  Human beings are social creatures, and we respond to brands because they reflect how we want to be in the world.

The bottom line?  Whether it’s a standard product, or something sustainable, your customer motivators will be the same.

Tania Crosbie is a CPM and Fellow of the Australian Marketing Institute and runs a sustainability marketing, communications, engagement, training and research firm (  Tania also consults as a ‘sustainability whisperer’ and educates marketers and agencies on the dos and don’ts of sustainability in marketing and advertising.


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