Eco Marketing is like regular marketing, just nuanced

Eco Marketing requires all of the usual marketing considerations, but nuanced.  For every organization the starting point should be a value proposition that is meaningful to your customers.  As Jacqueline Ottman explains in Green Marketing Myopia[1], it’s important not to get too carried away with the green-ness or sustainability of your offering, at the expense of explaining how well it solves your customer’s needs.

1. Know your target audience. Who are they?  How would you describe them (e.g., small or large, old or young, consumer or business, role within the household or business, industry or sector, location, interests, traits, characteristics, etc.)?

  • From a purchasing perspective, what shades of green are your customers?  Do they insist on buying ONLY environmentally correct products, for example?
  • Which segments of your market care more about sustainability or green-ness?

2. Articulate your customer’s needs or pain points. What are their concerns?  What problems do they need to solve?

  • Is sustainability high on your customer’s list of requirements?
  • What words do they use to describe their requirements and the results they’re seeking?

3. Define your product or service in terms of the benefits to the customer. How does it solve the customer’s need (e.g., for transportation: getting from point A to point B)? How much of an improvement will it be over what they’re currently using or doing?

  • Be careful to avoid greenwashing[2]!  Tell the truth and substantiate your claims. (See the FTC Guidelines for Environmental Marketing Claims.)
  • Avoid Green Marketing Myopia and make sure to address the customer pain points. Don’t stress your green-ness at the expense of what’s important to your customer.[3]

4. Know your strengths. What are you particularly good at?  What problems does your product or service solve?  How is your product or service unique or better than what the competition offers?

  • Does your offering satisfy more customer requirements than the alternatives because it’s green or sustainable?
  • Does it cost more because it’s green or sustainable?  (Consider capital and operating costs.)

5. Revisit the green part of your message. How much do your customers care about the environment?  Where does green rank in their buying criteria?  Is there a new market that is now open to you because of your green-ness?

  • Is your product or service intrinsically green (such as renewable energy), or are your operations green (you have a comprehensive sustainability program)?
  • How much does it matter?

6. Certify your green-ness. Assuming it’s important to your customers, utilize legitimate and widely recognized certifications and ratings, and above all, client testimonials.  It’s good to describe how you’re green, but it’s even more important to QUANTIFY the benefits and results, especially for your clients.

  • The best ways to avoid greenwashing are to utilize recognized endorsements or labels as well as customer testimonials, quantified whenever possible.  Make sure to substantiate your claims!

7. Walk the talk. Make sure to use sustainable practices in your own operations and marketing events.  For example, provide recycling opportunities at customer events, and use natural lighting whenever possible.

8. Get the word out. What do you want people to do when they learn about your product or service?  Consider how your clients acquire and use information.  Make sure that you have the strategy and goals set before you select the methodology and tactics.

9. Establish an ongoing conversation with your prospects and customers.  You can set up a campaign to push the message out, but it’s also important to provide a forum for communication and feedback.

10. Continuously improve your messaging and your offerings, based on customer needs and feedback.

[1] “Green marketing must satisfy two objectives: improved environmental quality and customer satisfaction. Misjudging either or overemphasizing the former at the expense of the latter can be termed “green marketing myopia.” Green Marketing Myopia, by Jacquelyn Ottman, Edwin R. Stafford, and Cathy L. Hartman, June 2006.


[2] Greenwashing refers to communications or actions that make the firm or its products appear more environmentally-friendly than they are.

[3] If sustainability or green-ness is a critical factor for your customers, then use it.  But make sure to use it in the right hierarchy of messaging.  For example, a company buying IT equipment for their data center may prioritize their requirements in this order: (1) increase processing capacity, (2) control costs, (3) reduce energy consumption, and (4) reduce carbon footprint and “save the planet.”


  1. [...] 20.5 Comments – Eco Marketing latest news Jun 8, 2010 … As Jacqueline Ottman explains in Green Marketing Myopia[1], … Do they insist on buying ONLY environmentally correct products, for example? …. I would love to hear some real life experiences and example of groups who … [...]

  2. Chad says:

    We have solved this by bringing together the best and most knowledgeable companies in the Washington DC area into a group that we call Eco Net. The “Green” and “Greenwashing” words are thrown around way too much these days. Companies that lie or don’t implement best practices and claim that they do are considered “Crooks”, not “Greenwashers”. The public is catching on to these goofballs by educating themselves on sustainability and best practices. I have seen it in the customers and clients that I deal with, it’s fantastic. Where a company is on their route to better efficiency and sustainability is where they are…good for them…and keep on track. No need to boast about things that aren’t true, or put yourself out there as a “Green” genius. Just stay on track and know that every small or large contribution to the same goal all adds up. In the end, do your part as best possible, and help out when needed. Chad, LEED GA.!/pages/DC-Green-Living/195319094080?ref=ts

  3. Thank you for a great post

  4. Hi Beth,

    As written, #’s 5,6, and 7 are unique to “green” marketing. #’s 8,9, and 10 are clearly not. #’s 1&2 could easily be combined – as written, the first bullet points under each are essentially identical. ( and small grammatical error: “What shade of green IS you customer”? you have “are”) #’s 2,3 & 4 could be retitled to focus on concerns that cater to companies interested in providing more sustainable products or services.

    More globally, a possible missed opportunity here is that you don’t mention benefits of promoting reduced risks, reduced external costs and lower life cycle costs. (and under “know your strengths” you list a weakness – “does it cost more” As someone involved in institutional purchasing, I am VERY interested in seeing comparative LCAs calculated with appropriate assumptions.

    Under #7 you list “recycling” and “using natural light” – Recycling is actually pretty low on the priority list of most sustainability professionals but because it is so visible it is a “must do”. To be effective it must be done well with attention to “upstream” practices that ensure the process put in place will work. The emphasis should be on REDUCING UNNECESSARY THROUGHPUT, not recycling. “Using natural light” is great when adequate but, if done well, is generally invisible to participants and of questionable marketing value as a result. On the other hand, an event that is promoted as “powered with wind” (in the form of currently inexpensive Green-e RECs, easily purchased online, offers prospects and customers a tangible and more substantial indicator of a company’s “sustainability” credentials. Promoted, local and more sustainably produced food service is also a highly visible indicator of more sustainable practice. But even the “greenest” of events or marketing efforts will fail if the company or product itself is not, in good faith, “more sustainable”.

  5. Nancy Artz says:

    nice summary, Beth!

  6. Saar Herman says:

    Nice, very informative, very true and very needed.
    I would love to hear some real life experiences and example of groups who have done or doing it very well and one who do not.

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