Greening Your Brand

25 08 2008

Today’s key color is green. Everyone is finally starting to get worried about the environment. Anymore, it’s not cool for people to drive SUVs or to not have their own canvas grocery bags when they’re at the supermarket. Businesses are even giving employees recycled notepads to write on and hand out at trade shows. Pad printing along with other paper items like brochures and posters are becoming trendy. Unlike other trends like punk or grunge, it’s not the minority that makes the trend, it’s the majority. And the majority is growing by the day, by the hour. Even Wal-Mart has jumped on the green bandwagon and has become one of the biggest purchasers of organic cotton.

In an online survey this past spring of 1,200 American adults, 57% said that the Energy Star label is influential in their buying practices. Even 45% said that “meeting EPA standards for product disposal influenced their preference.”

Being green is obviously gaining in importance to the average consumer by these survey numbers and just by the number of green goods that are purchased each year. Organic food purchases topped $20 million in 2007 and are estimated to rise 18% each year until 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association.  Everyone is jumping on the green bandwagon which means your business needs to as well.

Use “green” as part of your brand identity, not as your whole brand identity
If your whole brand premise is being “green” then you’re just setting yourself up for failure once this green craze settles down. If you all you do is tout how sustainable your production practices are, you’ll end up being a member of the green category of businesses, rather than a business that cares about the environment. Basing your whole brand on a logo of the Earth is like Ford basing their brand on a picture of a truck. Ford would be just a category of trucks, rather than its own brand.

American Apparel has always been “sweatshop free” as part of its brand. But the brand has been more than that. It’s about being youthful and enlightened, and in recent years that enlightenment has deepened its promise to use organics and renewables. The brand still holds true to its youthfulness and has added sustainable practices as something to bolster its image, not to turn its image around.

GE’s Ecomagination combines environmental issues with its core brand quality of imagination. Instead of being just “GE Eco” they added the “eco” to their core quality, they didn’t replace imagination.

What happens when you use “green” as your whole brand identity
Nau clothing company, which started only to exist as a sustainable clothing company, didn’t last long. Nau started selling clothes in 2007 and then on May 1, 2008 the directors decided to close it down.

Sustainability is expensive and unless you have something else to support your sustainability, it’s not going to last long unless you charge exorbitant prices.

The lesson here is to add some green to your brand and let people know about your efforts, but don’t go whole-hog – that will just turn people off and you probably won’t be able to afford it anyway.

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