Is Marketing The Answer?

Ecopreneurist_jpegEcopreneurist continues to post interesting commentary on green marketing this month.  Jennifer Kaplan discusses the role that green marketers can and should play in product design and development.

Posted Sept. 17, 2008
By Jennifer Kaplan, Ecopreneurist.com

In a recent commentary in Marketing Daily, Jacquelyn Ottman writes that “real power of green” lies in the hands of marketers:

It may be hard to fathom, but over 75% of the
environmental impact that a product throws off during its lifetime is
determined at the design stage, when, for instance, the materials are
chosen, the recyclability of a product is determined, and when the
amount of toxic chemicals it embodies is decided. And it doesn’t stop
at the design stage. Marketers often determine the concept, too.

She goes on to give a great example of how a marketer could re-design the toothbrush:

Consider a toothbrush. Want to lessen its environmental
impact? Start by making it out of recycled plastic, plastic made from
corn, and educate on how to recycle or compost it. Then make the head
replaceable and recyclable, too. Cut down on its packaging by only
wrapping the bristly head. Think you’re finished? Not a chance! That’s
because the toothbrush is part of a system-the water, the toothpaste
and the box the toothpaste comes in.

She’s got a great point. But let’s not forget that in order to make
a revolutionary toothbrush you need to assess the environmental impacts
of sourcing the materials, calculate the associated shipping and
transportation costs, find an appropriate manufacturing facility, etc…
And, in terms of marketing, we cannot forget that the products’ core
consumer benefits need to be addressed. The revolutionary toothbrush
won’t sell if the bristles fray prematurely or the brush fails to
effectively remove plaque or fend off bacteria, etc…

She goes on:

Marketers, start your engines! We’re the ones who can
dream up new product concepts, and we’re the ones who can sell them to
mainstream consumers (not just the deep green consumers who are born
predisposed to all things “eco”.)

Is it really that simple?  Dream it up and they will come? Ottman
fails to address a couple other key issues. Having failed to consider
the core consumer benefits she also doesn’t address the slippery slope
of greenwash. Don’t we want to talk about product benefits first and
marketing second? We all know that selling green attributes won’t fly
if they are not backed up with environmentally preferable practices
that can be verified.

At the same time, marketers do hold an essential role in the
greening process. Marketability is at the heart of new product
development.  Marketers are the ones who conceive of products and then
specify the attributes that consumers want.  If the result is the
creation of high quality products and services that meet consumers
needs and use the most environmentally friendly attributes that make
sense, then marketers may actually hold the true power of green. At
least a good chunk of it.

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