The Toyota Prius is a subject that has long fascinated us at marketmambo. While it wasn’t the first hybrid car in the
The Prius quickly became more than a car valued for its economic or environmental friendliness. The Prius premium of $6000 over a comparable model would require decades to justify by fuel savings. One notable analysis argued that from creation to destruction, the Prius consumes more energy than a Hummer. Another criticism suggests that the environmental cost of disposing of the Prius’ battery outweighs any potential benefit due to reduced carbon emissions.
Along with the car comes a healthy dose of Prius piety: the belief that somehow, your purchase of the Prius makes you morally superior to all other car owners. Research conducted in 2007 by CNW Marketing showed that only 36% of Prius owners cited fuel economy as the prime motivator for their car choice, not even in contention with the reason cited by 57% of purchasers: “It makes a statement about me”. According to Prius owner/actor/writer Larry David, “I needed something to make me feel smugly superior”.
Perhaps the most enjoyable lampoon of Prius piety was the 2006 episode of
But the purpose of this post is not to heap derision on the Prius or its purchasers. It’s only that the opportunity to use a quote from Larry David or a clip from
A “green” product claim seems to have become a requirement for most marketers. Home Depot has labeled many of its products “EcoOptions”. GE last year spent nearly its entire advertising budget on “EcoImagination”, its line of enviro-friendly products, which only make up 8% of their total sales. Wal-Mart has wrapped a national advertising campaign around Earth Day bearing the tagline “Budget friendly prices. Earth friendly products”. Steelcase, the office furniture maker from
One form of green claim that companies such as Google, Yahoo, Staples, Pepsico, and Whole Foods have begun to make is “carbon neutrality”. The hoped-for inference of a carbon neutrality claim is that these companies have modified their practices to reduce their carbon emissions. In fact, many of these companies have actually increased their carbon emissions, but justify the claim of “neutrality” through their purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates. REC’s are pieces of paper, like stocks and bonds, ostensibly issued by the financial backers of carbon-reduction projects, and purchased by companies who then claim that their own carbon emissions have been offset. The project gets the funds, the company gets the ad copy, and the brokers get very, very rich.
The environmental marketing firm TerraChoice, performed an analysis of over 1000 products which were marketed with enviro-friendly claims. There conclusion: only one of the products made claims that could be justified. Making unjustified environmental claims for a product is not new, and the word “greenwashing” has been around for many years. But it seems that greenwashing may now be at an all-time high.
If you’re interested in learning more on the practice, we recommend you follow up on the link below on “The Six Sins of Greenwashing” or go to the site GreenwashingIndex.com, to see examples of dubious advertising which has been uploaded by consumers.
Consumers appear to have become skeptical of these claims. Results of a survey sponsored by Burst Media show that almost 90% of consumers believe enviro-friendly product claims only sometimes or never. Another report by Nielsen describes the blogosphere abuzz with chatter on environmental issues, with greenwashing an important part of the conversation.
So when will skepticism lead to cynicism? When will green fatigue set in among consumers, and then be transmitted back to marketers? We at marketmambo suspect that it will be soon. All this talk of sustainability, is well, unsustainable. Perhaps this will be better for all. In the green dance between consumers and marketers, neither partner can honestly claim the truer, nobler motivation. For many, green is a only a gesture, devoid of intention and commitment.
So what about Leo and Cameron, and for that matter, the whole state of
And that leaves our friend, the hometown expat, the adopted child of
On the CNW Marketing research, click here.
On Cameron, Leo, and Larry David, click here.
For our previous post on the marketing gesture, click here.
To learn more about RECs, click here.
For a bit about the TerraChoice analysis, click here.
For the Six Sins of Greenwashing, click here.
For the Greenwahing Index site, click here.
For the AP article on the Green Funeral Exhibition, click here.
For the green funeral site, click here.
For the Burst Media report, click here.