July 7, 2008

Green! An ongoing struggle.

Filed under: Green MKTG — Robert John Ed @ 8:55 pm

UPDATE:  Fast Company did a piece on this same thing (sort of).  Guess I was late.

I saw a commercial a few days ago for Clorox GreenWorks. It got me to thinking a lot about “green” marketing and what that means. It is everywhere right now. Why do I care about these things? Because I’m insatiably curious of marketers, marketing and competition. That link leads to the home page for the products, which describes their new relationship with the Sierra Club, an environmentally friendly organization. There is some criticism about this relationship (from Wikipedia):

“Although this new line of products is intended to help the environment, many critics are skeptical of this new partnership. One reason is because Sierra will receive a part of the sales revenue, which enables them to receive corporate money while also advertising their group cause through a well-known business, while Clorox might simultaneously receive a better environmental image. Critics also assert this new line will not help rid their products of their dangerous chemicals. It has been found that the “all-natural” ingredients included within the Green Works products contain a chemical that is found in paint strippers and cleaning agents common to standard household product brands that have received poor ratings from the National Library of Medicine’s Household Products Hazardous Substances Database. This is a considerable concern because the United States government recently fined Clorox $95,000 due to an illegal Chinese pesticides donation to charity.” (Here’s the link for the article on the Clorox fine.)

So the real question that I had when I saw this was why a company like Clorox is introducing such a line. It’s a pretty obvious answer. It’s green! Green, green green! But not the environmentally friendly green. (And I don’t have a problem with capitalistic intentions, just a tendency to acknowledge them.) Two years ago I saw the CEO of a company named Method at an AMA conference. He spoke about how their line, a completely biodegradable and safe alternative to house hold cleaners and other products, was the first to market. And it was! It got distribution in Target stores nation wide. Very popular products and some edgy, poignant advertising as well.

That Method CEO had a great presentation and a great product. But competition has caught up. And they have the advertising dollars that Method may want to start sweating about. Now, most thinking says that first to market is the victor and harbors initial position. This time I wonder. Have you ever heard of Method? Had you heard of GreenWorks? I’m not sure that I would have taken notice if it wasn’t my job. So I’m honestly very curious to see how so called green cleaners will be received and the ensuing battle between the companies.

The reason I started this post was to discuss “green” and the marketing surrounding it. I’m not especially happy about it, but I don’t have the answers either. I’ll get into more detail about my meaning some other time; honestly, marketing the word green and purportedly environmentally friendly products is going to be around for a long time. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it is now officially a huge trend in consumerism and marketing. It will get better in the long term, but right now there is a lot of subterfuge.

Time to get ready for volleyball. Team Awkward Morning is going for victory number one! Woot.


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