A Look Back at Green Marketing in 2007


In retrospect, 2007 may be viewed as the year of the great awakening in the US regarding climate change. The mass media gets much credit for helping to foster awareness for the issue through film (eg, The Inconvenient Truth), broadcast (eg, Planet Earth), online content (eg, Live Earth) and star power (eg, Leonardo DiCaprio). State and local initiatives confirmed grassroots support for action on climate change. And the year will end with a modest energy bill passed by Congress.

While it is unlikely that the Bush administration will sponsor comprehensive action on climate change during 2008, court decisions made in 2007 lay the groundwork for doing so in the future.

Importantly, leading brands awoke in 2007 to the realization that inaction on climate change was no longer an option; by contrast, action could open up myriad new opportunities.

Consumers today are much more concerned about climate change than they were even one year ago. Moreover, they are expecting their favorite brands not only to share their concern but to take action (or enable their consumers) to mitigate it.

Throughout all of this, the interest in green marketing continued to trend upward in 2007. In fact, according to Technorati Charts, the average number of daily references to “green marketing” in the blogosphere doubled from about 150 per day in 2006 to more than 300 per day during the second half of 2007.

Source: Technoratic Charts; Data for the first half of 2007 was not available

Notably, interest in green marketing spiked considerably in late summer just as reports of persistent drought in the Southeast (and Southwest) appeared in the national media, and again during the fall when brushfires scorched much of California. Additionally, late fall brought news from the UN’s conference at Bali and legislative action on an energy bill in Washington.

Moreover, according to Google Trends, search volume for “green marketing” also continued to trend upward during 2007. Not surprisingly, many marketing professionals spent 2007 trying to grapple with whether the time was right to green their brand and marketing communications, and if so, how to do it credibly.

Interestingly, green marketing continues to be an issue of global interest. In fact, Google Trends reports that, on a relative basis, more searches for “green marketing” originated from India than from any other country.

Rank

Country

1

India

2

UK

3

US

4

Thailand

5

Australia

6

Canada

7

China

Traffic to the Marketing Green blog confirms the fact that green marketing is a global issue. A recent Site Meter snapshot of site visitors based on referring location indicates that a significant percentage of traffic originates outside of Western Europe and North America.

Source: Site Meter, mid-December snapshot, last 100 visitors to site

Yet, when all is said and done, we end the year with much accomplished but even more work to be done. Today, businesses are holding back on green product development because demand for eco-friendly goods is still uncertain; companies are also putting off more efficient capital investments while the regulatory environment is in flux. Moreover, many companies find themselves afraid to even dip their toe in the green marketing waters for fear that, despite good intentions, their initiative will be perceived as greenwashing.

Consumer attitudes on green continue to evolve. Green today is still largely viewed as a personal virtue, rather than a societal norm. As such, consumers have yet to translate their concern into sustained changes in purchase behavior. Moreover, standards for green products (not to mention marketing communications) have yet to be adopted in most categories, leaving consumers to their own devices to comparison shop.

Green marketers will play a crucial role in 2008 in multiple ways. Not only will they influence the pace at which their companies adopt more sustainable business approaches, but also the rate at which consumers translate awareness into purchases. The stakes are high, as the potential impact of climate change becomes all the more real. Along the way, Marketing Green will continue to provide insights into the changing face of green marketing. See you in 2008.

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