Coca-Cola’s green marketing credentials fall flat

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A lot of the problems associated with green marketing stem from greenwashing or a lack of credibility on the part of the communicator.  This article cites gives Coca-Cola's recycling ad campaign as an example of this.


Posted Sept. 21, 2009

By Lucy Barrett, The Guardian

Last week, in a bid to get a big green tick, Coca-Cola unveiled an ad campaign urging recycling. The soft drink giant's move shows that sustainability is back on the marketing and advertising agenda, and there are two key events coming up that will propel the issue to the fore – the UN climate change conference in December, where a new worldwide treaty on global warming will be set out; and the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), the British government's mandatory CO2emissions trading scheme, which comes into force next April.

Many brands will be forced to take significant steps to reducing carbon emissions; and to do so, companies will have to remove some choices from their customers such as plastic bags, packaging, posted statements etc. So they will have to find ways to explain why. Brands that get their messages right, using language that keeps customers on board, stand to win.

But it's not easy to sound sincere when you haven't bothered in the past. Take car companies: they will now have to tell us not just to use their product less, but also to drive slower. The same applies to many utility companies, which love telling us they are greener than their competitors but have yet to prove their sincerity. But while there are quite a few cases of advertising as green washing, some brands are doing meaningful things. The best example is Marks & Spencer's Plan A. It has been supported robustly throughout the recession, making it more credible to the public. It is an initiative driven from the top – by M&S's chairman Stuart Rose.

This brings us back to Coke's Keep It Going – Recycle, which I think belongs in the insincere category. The company has clearly not thrown money at this campaign and it shows. The ad resembles something my local council could have knocked up. Coke should be leading the way, finding a creative way to encourage consumers to cut their carbon footprints, not just paying lip service.

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