Sunday, February 10, 2008

Four green marketing predictions for 2008

There are likely to be some serious shifts in the 'green marketing' landscape during the next year or two, including legal challenges and consumer 'greenwashing lists', according to green marketing expert Jacquelyn Ottman.

Some of the coming changes may be influenced by the US Federal Trade Commission's hearings on green marketing claims and so-called "eco-labels", while others will come about because of large retailers' efforts to persuade suppliers to produce trimmed-down products and packaging. Ottman's top four predictions for green marketing in 2008 and beyond are:

Discredited green claims lose traction
Expect some meaningless marketing terms to fall by the wayside. For example, expect to see fewer claims of bio-degradability, especially with regard to some types of corn-based plastics (which have actually been found not to degrade in backyard compost heaps or even in municipal systems). There could also be a hard backlash against claims of carbon offsetting until meaningful standards can be set, and until those who sell these offsets can be officially verified.

CPG manufacturers and retailers may also be driven to severely curb the use of self-imposed eco-labels. Instead, green marketers would be wise to stick to officially recognised labels such as Energy Star, FSC, and Organic, which have been issued by trusted third parties. Official standards may also be set in the near future for terms like "natural" so that consumer confidence can be restored in this most basic of green attributes.

Electronics suppliers tout eco-performance
Expect electronics firms to start marketing their green credentials, earned by creating programmes to take back their products at end of their useful life and reducing their use of toxic chemicals in response to various government directives, WEEE (Waste for Electric and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) programmes.

Companies make more green products
Many more green products will hit the shelves as the industry takes more confident steps to satisfy big retailer demands for products with less packaging, less energy use, and reduced toxicity (e.g. containing no PVC or heavy metals). Many of these products will put their primary benefits first in their marketing materials, including higher performance levels, aesthetics, and cost effectiveness, while green claims will tend to recede, reflecting reticence from potential greenwashing backlash, and a simple growing awareness of good green marketing practice.

Consumers buy more green products
Green products sales will increase greatly, boosted by the marketing weight of major CPG firms that have been buying up as many green brands as possible over the past year or two. Examples include: Clorox, which bought Burts Bees in 2007 and launched its own GreenWorks brand; Colgate (Tom's of Maine); Procter & Gamble (Crest Naturals and Tide Coldwater); and Danone (Stonyfield Farm).

Expect continued growth for 'deep green' standalone brands such as Method and Seventh Generation as they continue to grow behind mass-market distribution. A myriad of green product trade shows (such as Coop America's 'Green Festivals', and the 'Go Green Expo') will introduce more consumers to green alternatives, greatly helping green companies to achieve long-term growth and awareness.

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