In today’s uber connected Web 2.0 world the biggest mistake a business or marketer can make is underestimating the influence of consumers. They can be your biggest asset or the bane of your brands existence and the simple golden green rule to adhere by is “do not greenwash”. To simplify this already basic concept even further; if your product, company or brand is not green, then green marketing is not the right strategy for you. Consumer trust and confidence once lost is hard to win back.
Green Marketing is defined on Wikipedia as “a term that is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a products or service”. Translation: More money, time and effort has been spent advertising being green rather than actually spending resources on environmentally sound practices.
Below are examples of five companies and the faux green marketing that resulted in not only bad press, but in the loss of consumer confidence in their brand:
- Kraft’s Post Selects Cereals, for falsely promoting its cereals as having “natural ingredients” when, in fact, the corn used in the cereal is genetically engineered — made in a lab, not by nature
- General Motors, for falsely promoting its cars as environmentally friendly, with ads that place GM SUVs in natural habitats as if they were as natural as the birds. In fact, SUVs get very few miles to the gallon and are far more harmful to the environment than most other automobiles. General Motors is a member of the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, an organization that opposes clean air legislation and laws directed at reducing auto emissions.
- ExxonMobil, for falsely advertising that the air we breathe is getting better, not worse. Along with the rest of the oil and gas industry, ExxonMobil helped to kill the Kyoto Protocol, an international initiative that called for tougher emissions standards
- Clairol, for false advertising. The company claims to offer a “truly organic experience” with its Herbal Essences line of shampoos but, according to the report, uses chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol and D&C red no. 33, which are not organic. (The report notes that Clairol does use some organic ingredients, does not test on animals and uses 25 percent post-consumer recycled plastic in its bottles.)
- Tyson Chicken, for promoting its products as “all natural,” even though the company treats its chickens with antibiotics.