Want to be more Earth friendly? Take this advice from brands that already walk the talk
OK we’ve all seen “An Inconvenient Truth” by now. And let’s be honest we’re all wondering if there were this many floods droughts and forest fires going on at one time back when we were kids. It’s time to face it—environmental awareness is becoming more than a trend. It’s feeling kinda like a necessity right about now. So it’s no surprise that marketers of all kinds are beginning to add environmental awareness into their mobile tours sponsorships and other experiences.
Agencies confirm it all. Kristi Mason marketing manager for Gigunda says out of the last 10 RFPs her agency has received at least seven have required a green component as part of the plan. “We’re definitely seeing a trend in new business to incorporate a green element ” she says. “By next year it will be a presence. If you’re not on the green bandwagon you had better be.”
According to Dax Callner senior vp-strategy practice leader at Jack Morton Worldwide companies are greening up in four key categories: energy sources especially electricity and water; materials using recycled biodegradable or washable and reusable materials on site; waste setting up a plan to recycle or compost; and carbon offsetting purchasing carbon offsets or asking attendees to purchase offsets for their travel.
Socially aware brands have long been tuned in to the environment and so far the most far-reaching programs come from companies that pride themselves on environmentalism. Here is a look at some of the newest greenest endeavors out there by three environmental trendsetters.
Jeff Johnson director-brand experience at Clif Bars an all-natural energy food and beverage brand committed to the environment since its inception in the early ’90s finds global warming a subject that is hard for most people to get their heads around but one that connects directly with his customers who tend to be outdoors enthusiasts.
In January the company launched Save Our Snow a winter road trip visiting ski resorts and schools in the Western U.S. Rockies and Canada to educate people about the possible extinction of skiing and snowboarding by the year 2050 due to global warming. The tour travels in an RV powered by vegetable oil and serves up smoothies made in a solar-powered smoothie machine. Yum.
“They start to see the immediate impact when we’re standing at the base of a mountain and there it is the mountain is bald as bald can be with no snow in the past 20 days ” he says.
Clif Bars’ GreenNotes program has supported musicians passionate about the environment and green music festivals since 2005. Artists such as soul singer Martin Sexton and Australians Xavier Rudd and the John Butler Trio receive grants plans and technical assistance from Clif Bars to help reduce their eco-impact. That means bio-diesel fuel for their buses printing on recycled paper with soy-based ink selling organic cotton t-shirts at concerts and buying renewable energy credits to offset their remaining carbon dioxide emissions with wind power. GreenNotes also encourages fans to pledge to reduce their own CO2 emissions. They have achieved nearly 15 million pounds the equivalent of removing some 1 300 cars from the roads for a year.
For Clif Bars a positive impact on the environment is integral to the company’s DNA. It measures an aspect of its performance on its ability to sustain the environment.
For others more motivated to move product and increase sales however green efforts can ring a little hollow. “Going green really requires a fundamental shift in the way you do everything ” Johnson says. “Most important don’t look at it as a marketing or a branding campaign. These are savvy times from a consumers’ viewpoint. They will see right through the most smartly put together marketing and branding campaign. Greening an event is really an invitation for consumers to take a harder look at who you are as a company.”
Michael McHale director of corporate communications at Subaru couldn’t agree more. “Event marketing can only work when there is a natural fit between the event and the product behind it ” he says.
Subaru enjoys a natural fit between its products such as the ultra-low-emission Outback and Forester vehicles and its green initiatives. “Environmental customers came to us first because our product delivered what they wanted ” McHale says. “It’s a natural for us to speak to those customers in a voice they understand.”
Example #1: Subaru’s 10-year sponsorship of Leave No Trace an international non-profit organization dedicated to responsible outdoor recreation. Subaru’s Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers take Subaru Outbacks from state to state teaching outdoor enthusiasts how to minimize their impact in natural areas. So far the program has reached more than eight million people in 48 states.
Example #2: National River Clean-Up Week. “Our customers are already in that river fishing or kayaking with their vehicle parked along side ” McHale says. Subaru provides vehicles and financial support and its employees volunteer in the effort.
Subaru also sponsors Yakima’s Road Warriors Tour that as part of the vehicle rack maker’s “Planet Payback” program is 100 percent carbon neutral this year.
“It’s event marketing but the product has to stand up ” he adds. “We’re lucky we have a product that our more activist customers enjoy. We’re not trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole.”
Some brands are turning to scientific experts to bring added credibility to their environmental strategies. Starbucks recently sponsored discussions by environmental experts on climate change in 10 of its stores while an in-store promo earlier this summer touted “Arctic Tale ” produced by National Geographic Films and distributed by Paramount Classics the story of a walrus pup and a polar bear threatened by global warming. In-store and window signage and cup sleeves hyped the movie for four weeks.
But these eco-conscious brands agree when going green there’s a right way and a wrong way. As Subaru’s McHale puts it when targeting environmentally conscious consumers “You’re dealing with experts and they know very quickly if you’re credible and authentic or not.”
And as for the cost “I would call it the true cost ” says Johnson. “There are so many ways to overlook the true cost of doing business and putting on events. There is a cost associated with putting on a less impactful event. There are also cost-savings by looking at things like reducing packaging and conservation.”
For links on where to buy and sell carbon credits click here.