Overstatement of environmental attribute. “An environmental marketing claim should not be presented in a manner that overstates the environmental attribute or benefit, expressly or by implication,” the FTC advises. “Marketers should avoid implications of significant environmental benefits if the benefit is in fact negligible.”
In layman’s terms, the basis for a claim must be displayed prominently in a legible typeface, as close as possible to the claim. The message needs to be specific and relevant. Most of this is simple common sense. Do not make any broad claims that cannot be substantiated or that might be misleading or irrelevant.
If the legalese and rules feel constraining and stifle creativity as your Green Team begins to formulate its green marketing messages, keep in mind that the guidelines represent a set of checks and balances. Cross-referencing ideas with the FTC guidelines will actually keep your team on track to craft messages that are effective and meet legal criteria.
Credibility and Relevancy
Jacquelyn Ottman, a leading expert and consultant in green marketing, outlined some key initiatives in her keynote speech at the Sustainable Brands ’08 Conference. Ottman recommends marketers first focus on primary benefits. Make your message clear and relevant without overstating the environmental benefits. In her speech, she cited a March 2008 Gallup Poll that showed the environment trailing only health care and the economy as being consumers’ top concern.
Her advice is to try to link your green benefits to health issues or how they might positively affect your customer’s pocketbook. Winning messages are those that are relevant to your customers. To be convincing, Ottman also believes in transparency, a topic we have emphasized already.
Credibility and relevancy to your customers are critical factors in effective green marketing. Your green claims or benefits should be in addition to your core marketing messages regarding your products and services. Integrating the two marketing strategies tells customers that your green talking points are simply a part of your overall marketing message and quality of service and practice, not simply a standalone message on which you’re trying to bank.