Tuesday, April 22

Checking Reality: Green For A Day?

For all the success of Earthday, there seems to be some cause for concern too . I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s like over commercialization and meaningless messages at the same time.

"Every company is out there touting 'we're green' -- it's the new requirement for being a good corporate citizen," Allen Adamson, managing director of WPP Group's branding consultancy Landor Associates, told The Wall Street Journal. "The noise level is so high now. The first few people into it had some benefit. Now it's a cost of entry.”

The Wall Street Journal article was something I thought about today while meeting with one of our clients — an engineering firm that retrofits boilers, making them more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Enough so that one retrofit is equivalent to planting 700,000 trees. It’s important because of what they do, but it’s not their only message. Their work also achieves payback in less than one year.

And then I thought of some other messages I had seen today: Subaru of America is donating 160 cherry trees across the country; Nokia launched a program to make recycling mobile phones easier. SmarterTravel highlighted “green” travel designations on their Web site.

While there is nothing really wrong with any of it, it does makes me wonder.

Do these more frivolous pursuits for media attention do any good? Or do they merely distract from people and companies who do things daily? Does seeing a commercial with two Anheuser-Busch employees talking about the environment make you want to buy the beer? Was Wal-Mart really smart to declare April "Earth Month?" Should we all send Earthday cards around the planet from now on?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s the difference between participation and engagement. You can celebrate Earthday today and/or you can do something about the environment daily.

We’re dropping some artificial turf in the backyard tomorrow, which makes sense when you live in a desert. (Water conservation is a big deal here.) I suppose I could have issued a news release and called it an Earthday solution.

But given we can only communicate so many messages about ourselves and hope to have any one of them be remembered, there wasn’t much point in pretending. Huh. Maybe we could call that message conservation.

Right on. Let's make Earthday daily, but not a marketing gimmick or public relations stunt. We have enough of those already.



Greg Cooper on 4/23/08, 11:06 AM said...

"Do these more frivolous pursuits for media attention do any good?"


People will see right through the nonsense that is a patronizing effort to use green for self centered gains. On the other hand, there are too many that need to be reminded, even tutored as to what green is that talking about it always helps. My 8 year old son saw a Wal Mart commercial with a green theme and reignited a conversation about Earth Day, what it meant, why we participate. There's always wheat with the chaffe. Let's be grateful for the wheat.

Anonymous said...

Don't matter what is good someone always finds a way to commercialize it, and something so beautiful as nature

Unknown on 4/23/08, 4:56 PM said...

I love how these companies promote green while trying to keep our lifestyle. The american lifestyle does not = green. But, these companies make money on the american lifestyle, they really don't care about the earth, green stands for dollars.

Rich on 4/24/08, 10:38 AM said...

@Greg Absolutely, I am grateful for the wheat. I never fault others for their ignorance, only suggest they recognize it. (I myself am ignorant of many things). Mostly though, I'm glad your son found a conversation takeaway from the commercial.

@MMWC Rightly so. There is no harm in being a good corporate citizen, but certain commercial aspects of Earthday seem contrary to the effort.

@Drburst I tend to agree. While there is nothing wrong with companies doing good and talking about the good they do (to set example), there is a balance between implementing certain values and inventing minimal efforts in order to capitalize on popular trends.

Rich on 5/5/08, 11:55 AM said...

More Words:

According to AdAge, journalists are looking for what is starting to look for companies that use "green" messages as window dressing. Make it count!



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