Be creative, upfront with green efforts

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While green marketing is nothing new to consumer advertisers, it has been slow to catch on among their b-to-b counterparts. BtoB recently spoke with Joel Makower, executive editor of and other properties published by Greener World Media and author of “Strategies for the Green Economy” (McGraw-Hill Cos., 2008), about green marketing's growth in b-to-b. BtoB: How does green marketing fit into b-to-b marketing? Makower: The b-to-b marketplace for green products and services is much more vibrant than the consumer-facing markets. Hundreds of companies are integrating environmental considerations into their procurement criteria, requiring b-to-b companies to learn the ins and outs of green. BtoB: What can companies do to revamp green campaigns? Makower: Green marketing needs to be as clever and vibrant as traditional marketing. But most of it is either trite—for example, invoking Kermit the Frog's 38-year-old mantra, “It's not that easy being green”—or overly complex, offering a litany of technical explanations about a product without necessarily invoking its basic value proposition. Customers, b-to-b and consumers alike, aren't looking to save the earth with their purchases. They want products that meet their needs, or offer solutions to problems or that are good value for the money—and that are environmentally friendly. “Green” is almost never the principal purchasing criterion. BtoB: What advice would you give companies new to green marketing? Makower: Green marketing can be challenging and perilous if you don't have your act together. Today, it's simply not enough to wave your arms and proclaim your company's or product's green attributes. You need to put it into context, which means you need a thorough understanding of what your company is doing right and what it's not yet doing right, from an environmental perspective. Companies that fail to do their homework are most at risk of being accused of “greenwashing” by activists, bloggers and other critics. BtoB: How has green marketing been affected by the global economic downturn? Makower: Green marketing has fared fairly well. Companies are cutting back, as they are with all marketing, but they seem to be cutting back less with green. In some cases—computing and information technology, for example—green is surviving because environmental considerations are part of the competitive landscape. In others, it's a way to maintain brand equity. —Sneh Naik
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