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Gail Nickel-Kailing, managing director of Business Strategies Etc.

Shades of Green

By Gail Nickel-Kailing

About Gail

A business adviser and problem solver, Gail is managing director of Business Strategies Etc., which provides strategic marketing and business planning services and manages the execution of marketing communications tactics that help companies:
• Define their sustainability strategies,
• Deliver a positive, sustainable image,
• Gain credibility, trust and respect, and
• Measure the results of their green initiatives and actions.

Gail is a nationally recognized speaker on a wide range of subjects and brings enthusiasm and a unique blend of experience to the podium. As an industry analyst and journalist contributing to publications in the United States, Canada, India and Brazil, she has covered a number of beats, particularly sustainability in printing and mailing, print on demand, variable data printing and direct mail.
 

Strategies for Stepping Up to Green Marketing

 
The bad news is that conventional marketing is out. The good news is, green marketing—or “sustainable branding,” if you prefer—is in. The old rules, those that have guided consumer marketing since the ’50s (think Mad Men), simply cannot effectively address the needs of today’s consumers. Times have changed!

Before we dive into green marketing strategies, let’s define marketing as a function and a practice:

Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.


Marketing is an integrated process that includes market requirement definition, business development, marketing communication, public relations and advertising.

So what, then, is “green marketing?”

Green marketing is NOT:
  • Printing all your direct mail pieces on recycled paper that is printed with vegetable-based inks.
  • Putting your product in a bottle or package made of biodegradable materials.
  • Qualifying for a third-party “eco-label” like Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) chain-of-custody certified.
  • Press releases announcing “green” initiatives like Zero Carbon or a new fleet of bio-fuel trucks.
Green marketing IS:
  • Taking into consideration social and environmental affects of your product’s entire life cycle, from development to use and disposal.
  • Understanding the relationship between your customers’ “green” values and principles and the products and services you offer.
  • Making packaging choices that minimize the quantity of packaging and incorporate recycled, compostable, biodegradable and/or repurposed materials.
  • Using marketing communication and promotional channels that reduce waste and redundancy, whether online or offline.
  • Partnering across a wide range of collaborators and stakeholders to develop programs that address a wide range of environmental issues and social issues, such as workers rights and humane treatment of animals.
  • Delivering your “green brand promise” through your products, packaging, promotions and all your corporate communications.
Green marketing—or sustainable marketing, if you wish—is an over-arching strategy that extends to all corporate functions, rather than a series of tactics. By taking a strategic approach, companies can incorporate social and environmental considerations into the corporate value system and avoid what has become, for many organizations, an ever-increasing tendency for “green washing.”

How to get there?
  • Get into the minds of your customers and stakeholders to truly understand their environmental and social beliefs and values and develop a plan to align with them.
  • Move from the concept of “green” products to “greener” products—design and manufacture products that balance quality, convenience and affordability with minimal adverse environmental and social impacts throughout the product life cycle.
  • Developing a “greener” brand that engages consumers and stakeholders in ways that reflect the important issues in their lives.
  • Establish credibility for your efforts by communicating your corporate commitment and striving for complete transparency.
  • Exceed customer and stakeholder expectations that they should do more to solve environmental and social problems.
  • Build a sense of community—using whatever platforms are at hand—with your environmental and social stakeholders.
  • Improve the use and “end of life” for your products; for many products, the true environmental costs are not in the manufacturing of products, but in the use and disposal of them.
So what does this have to do with printing? You, Mr. or Ms. Printer, are a service provider. These are the strategies, tactics and issues that your customers are focused on. Get inside your their heads and know their businesses as well as your own.

Regardless of where you start on this path, take the first step.
 

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