By Elliot Polak, Founder and CEO of Textappeal (cross cultural translation agency).
While politicians and world leaders are debating carbon emissions, tree planting and recycling schemes, there are brands and consumers on the ground doing something about it.
For those running an international marketing department or creating advertising for a global brand, this is an important topic.
The opportunity to inject a Corporate Social Responsibility element into marketing is real. Being informed of the local issues and opportunities in green advertising is not a bad idea when designing a global CSR communications effort.
How can green benefits be expressed in a compelling and market relevant way?
To find out, we researched how brands around the world use green benefits in their advertising, and how tactics differ across cultures. We tasked our local marketing experts in 47 countries with the question: ‘what brands and which advertisements in your country make you care?’
After looking at literally hundreds of ads from every corner of the globe, we unearthed a few gems that seem to produce an effect - usually a positive one, sometimes a negative one (as I believe that both best and worst practice can hold useful lessons).
On the negative side, some regions and countries such as Russia and the former Soviet bloc boast practically no examples whatsoever.
In other markets, such as Germany and France, many were unveiled – although usually repetitive. Brazil distinguishes itself with an original political take on climate change, one extreme example being the now infamous WWF ad that opposes climate change to 911 ("The tsunami killed 400 times more people than 911").
Here are other examples, mostly positive, split into four categories: Clean Up, Be Good, Be Healthy and Save Money.
1. Clean up
A constant across Western markets are the so called "greenwash" ads, often used by car manufacturers and oil companies to project a cleaner image.
One example of a company trying too hard comes from Pakistan, in a bizarre case of "oxygen offsetting". The national Tobacco Company sidesteps any harmful effects of smoking, and proposes to plant trees instead.
A few brands in Europe stand out with original approaches to cleaning up. For instance in France, Audi uses a striking blank visual in its print advertising in order to propose a car free day.
In the UK, where an ironic twist can be an effective attention-getting devise, Stella Artois turns its back on the collapsing monetary value of "Hedge Funds", proposing instead to plant real hedges for every special pack bought.
2. Be Good
A common tactic around the world is to help customers feel good about themselves. From guilt alleviation to pride, the type of "feel good" reward varies according to local cultures and values.
In Sweden, The City of Stockholm turns being good for the environment into good fun. "Piano Stairs" get 66 percent more people off the escalator. "The World's Deepest Bin" doubles rubbish collection by making a cartoonish glissando sound as objects fall inside. The “Bottle Bank Arcade” turns bottle disposal into a game.
In the USA, Levis’ "Recycled Jeans" get on the green side of trendy eco-smart consumers, seamlessly combining the desirable washed out look and feel of its product with a self-evident ecological benefit.
3. Be Healthy
Highlighting health benefits is particularly prevalent in China, Brazil and a number of other countries in South America, where industrial damage to nature such as water pollution and deforestation have well-publicized negative effects.
In Colombia, Toyota uses an innovative way to demonstrate healthy credentials in direct marketing materials – by printing eco-message directly on dried banana leaves instead of paper.
4. Save money
What's good for the planet can be good for the wallet. This is significant growth category in recessionary markets around the world.
In Japan, the government initiated a simple and effective way to encourage people to buy green. Consumers get points every time they buy products that have been approved by the government as “ecologically correct.” These points can be redeemed for additional merchandise, turning them into a kind of free currency.
In Lebanon, HSBC found a way to advertise that saves energy and reduce display costs at the same time. Its advertising panel only lights up when someone actually passes in front of it.
Does green marketing make a difference to the bottom line?
To understand the importance of green marketing in individual countries, we pro¬duced two ‘sentiment’ maps, based on the local pulse-taking of our strategists and marketing experts covering over 70% of the world’s population.
1. How strongly do people feel about companies’ environmental policies?
Unsurprisingly, the overall sentiment is that people in most markets want corporations to be responsible eco-citizens. On a scale of -5 to +5, the global average is an optimistic 1.01 (no doubt why so many brands put so many advertising dollars behind sustainability claims).
2. How important is a green benefit in making the actual consumer purchase decision?
On the same -5 to +5 scale, the global average is a dismal -2.8. It appears that green marketing rarely drives people to buy a company’s products, which may be why it is so hard (but not impossible, as our report demonstrates) to come up with engaging green advertising ideas.
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