Next is the true marketing phase. At this point, your Green Team needs to develop a marketing plan that ensures all green messaging follows legal guidelines and solid strategies. Let’s start with the legal.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a list of rules for green marketing claims (known popularly as the Green Guides) that you can use to cross reference a typical self-storage facility’s products and processes. These include:
- General claims, e.g. “eco-friendly”
- Eco-seals, seals-of-approval and certifications
- Biodegradable claims
- Recyclable claims/please recycle claims
- Recycled content claims
- Source reduction claims
- Ozone safe/ozone friendly and no CFCs claims
Legally and ethically, the Green Team is charged with making sure all claims avoid any potential “greenwashing,” which is to make a false or erroneous claim of an environmental benefit. If the group is certain of the facts behind a claim, it still must make sure that the wording of the claim will be clearly understood by the consumer.
Remember, the first rule the FTC uses in judging validity of a green claim is how the marketing message is perceived by the customer. The gap between what consumers take a green message to mean versus the truth behind the claim must be avoided through clarity and specificity. But that alone will not be enough to stay on the right side of the law.
The Marketing Message
Once the Green Team has validated a claim using the FTC’s guidelines, it will be ready to craft the marketing message. Of course the FTC has some things to say about that as well. There are a couple of key points to consider under the General Principles section of the Green Guides:
Qualifications and disclosures. “Any qualifications or disclosures ... should be sufficiently clear, prominent and understandable to prevent deception,” the FTC’s guidelines say. “Clarity of language, relative type size and proximity to the claim being qualified, and an absence of contrary claims that could undercut effectiveness, will maximize the likelihood that the qualifications and disclosures are appropriately clear and prominent.”