Why Green Marketing Is Doomed

SunChips' Cautionary Tale With a Biodegradable Bag Offers Lessons in Sacrifice and Education

By Published on .

Doug Melville
Doug Melville
Here is a shining example of why green marketing has a tough road as it bumps into things like the need to increase sales, consumer convenience and people's lack of foresight for future generations.

Who can forget this SunChips Commercial, which debuted on TV in early 2009. Months before the SunChip bag was even released, this commercial gave the brand a long runway to announce they were going to be the first to go green with their bag. Historically, SunChips doesn't even typically do TV.

Later on, they launched this follow-up ad, which touts how great the world can be for our children and how important our environment is. Green fans online united and were excited for such innovation. According to their website, SunChips produces 145,000 bags each and every day, so over the course of a year, this would be over 52 million bags. This is a huge deal. Meticulous research over the course of several years was undertaken to develop the bag, test it and introduce it. Finally the 100% biodegradable bag was released in late 2009.

But with way less fanfare, last week Frito-Lay announced they were pulling the bag, because it was too noisy, and going back to the bag they used previously. According to this news report, sales have gone down 10% since the bag was introduced. The noise of the bag has caused quite a stir online, with SunChip fans starting Facebook groups, posting YouTube videos and tweeting about it.

Apparently, the unusual molecular structure of the bag makes it rigid and thus much noisier. Which leads me to two things that have been lacking here: sacrifice and education. Frito-Lay should have taken the time to educate people through TV that the bag may be noisier, but it is also saving the environment. Consumers should have been more willing to sacrifice a noisier chip bag for the same reason, to save the environment. It is hardly an item that is life or death -- heck, you buy the bag knowing you're going to throw it out. But instead, the bag is crumbled up, mocked and the consumer complaining ensues.

The sad reality is green marketing is put into effect in many cases only if consumers unite to demand it, or if a corporation can leverage it loud enough (no pun intended) to affect sales positively. If sales subsequently go down, then the product's opportunity to flourish is limited by the short leash, and the end result is what happened here: The green product is pulled as "more internal testing takes place."

As marketers, we have to take the time and energy to make green marketing a priority for the greater good of our planet, which is not an infinite resource. If we can't even put up with a little noise for the best interest of our future generations, we are going to have a lot of explaining to do to our children who are left to pick up our trash.

Douglas L. Melville is currently the president of Red Carpet Runway and a strategic adviser for various entertainment brands and personalities.
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