Words that ‘Work’: What To Write When Marketing Green

Ecopreneurist jpeg
The American Climate Values Survey identified key findings in how to communicate the climate message to different audiences but it did not focus on word choice. Futerra Sustainability Communications recently did a study that focused on the types of words that are most meaningful to consumers.

Posted Dec. 10, 2008
By Olga Orda, Ecopreneurist

Every single word counts when it comes to marketing. How you package
your brand with words and images has a strong influence on how people
perceive your company.

Words that 'work'

But before I dive into which words can work for your product or
service, always keep in mind that your company’s credibility is the
first priority. Otherwise, it will affect how receptive people are to
your words and any attempts to ‘pull the wool’, so to speak, over a
target market’s eyes can backfire.

You may have seen the ad buzzing around on TV and online about the myth of “clean coal”. Al Gore also responded to clean coal claims and said, “Clean coal is like healthy cigarettes. It does not exist.” This is what happens when companies do not act in a way that earns public trust.

One thing that gives many ecopreneurists and green start ups
credibility is research and good information about their
environmentally-friendly services and products.

The Global Exchange Online Store, for example, educates people about what Fair Trade is, what criteria is used, and so on. Also, Green Printer
explains the positive environmental impact people can make by using
treeless and recycled content papers with numbers to back up their

When it comes to words, though, which ones are more effective than others?

 Futerra Sustainability Communications
is a communications agency that specializes in corporate responsibility
and sustainability. The company conducted a very relevant study, “Words That Sell,”
to find out how the public responds to sustainability terminology. The
study, “designed to test the connotative meanings of both established
and some newly coined sustainability terminology”, analysed terms from
government reports, NGO posters, business websites and even tried out a
few new ones of their own.

In a world where public relations firms spend thousands (or
millions) and days (or weeks, if the client is ‘big’ enough) mulling
back and forth between a single line of text, Futerra Sustainability
Communications is on the ball when it asserts that, “if sustainability
is to become a persuasive vision, it needs a persuasive language.”

As a first step to determining the persuasive language, Futerra
conducted two focus groups. The company tested words from four
categories: Waste and Efficiency, Travel and Transport, Energy, and Footprints and Global Equity.

Words that people liked and understood included ‘zero waste’,
’smart appliances’, ‘one planet living’ and ‘conscious lifestyle’. The
most effective words had the following characteristics:

  • Empathized and personified: terms that played on connotative meanings
  • Smart and savvy: terms like “savvy driving” can save money, time, and help the environment
  • Actions that speak louder than words: terminology that is associated with sustainable travel

Some of the words that didn’t make the cut included: eco-safe driving, conflict energy, and North/South.  Who would have known?

These are just a few of researched words that can kick-start your brainstorm marketing session.

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