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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The New Rules of Green Marketing

The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding

By Jacquelyn A. Ottman
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
ISBN 978-1-60509-866-1

This review was first published on on 23rd February 2011

Green has gone mainstream. What used to be a fringe market that appealed to a faction of eco-hippies is now a bona fide $290 billion industry ranging from organic foods to hybrid cars, ecotourism to green home furnishings. Over the past 20 years, Jacquelyn Ottman has been watching this transition from her perch as green marketing pioneer and adviser to over 60 Fortune 500 companies. In The New Rules of Green Marketing, Ottman, considered to be the nation's foremost expert on green marketing, provides unparalleled insight into the changing needs of mainstream consumers, how companies large and small have responded with fresh green marketing strategies, what it takes to succeed and what the future of marketing will look like.

It sounds like it couldn't be simpler. According to Jacquelyn A. Ottman, the five strategies for establishing credibility for sustainable branding and marketing are:

1.Walk your talk.
2.Be transparent.
3.Don't mislead.
4.Enlist the support of third parties.
5.Promote responsible consumption.

Don't be fooled. Behind these 16 harmless words lie an array of theories, models, approaches, frameworks, do's and do not's, regulatory imperatives, consumer analytics, trends, surveys, reports, examples, case studies and commentaries on the entire spectrum of presenting your products and services in an environmentally responsible way, and Ottman's book covers as many of them as you can cram into a compact 223 pages of text and references. As someone who, modestly, believes themselves to be above average on environmental awareness and reasonably up-to-date with the world of sustainability, cause marketing and green corporate initiatives, I found The New Rules of Green Marketing refreshingly informative and enlightening, and I enjoyed reading about many examples that I had not come across before, all put together in a well-ordered and logically-flowing volume.

The New Rules of Green Marketing is a book you have to read from end to end. It's written in a punchy, fast-paced style and each page is full to the brim of wise guidance, with references to just about any company, I think, that has ever done anything remotely green. If you are not quoted in Jacquelyn Ottman's book, you apparently don't count in the green Hall of Fame (or in some cases, Hall of Shame).

The new rules of green marketing are 20 in number and include "green is cool," taking a life-cycle approach, the fact that sustainability now represents "an important consumer need and is an integral aspect of product quality," "environmentalists are no longer the enemy," "green consumers don't expect perfection" and other staples such as authenticity and "keep it simple."

The book starts by making the case for the "mainstreaming of green" and what companies need to understand in today's evolving markets, and continues with the way consumer profiles are changing. What shade of green are you? LOHAS? Naturalite? Drifter? Conventional? Unconcerned? In which segment do you fit? Are you a resource conserver? Outdoor enthusiast? Animal lover or a health fanatic? No matter which way, Ottman has you profiled and understands what publications you read, what you worry about and what drives you to buy green.

The author goes on to show how this knowledge can be translated into sustainable, profitable and legitimate business practice, supported by 15 strategies for sustainable product design, astute marketing, collaborative partnerships and, if possible, inspirational leaders. The book is full of real, accessible and re-applicable examples of what great companies are doing - some you know well, Timberland, Method, General Electric - and some whose green credentials you may know less well, Reynolds, Tiffany & Co., NatureWorks, Cengage, GenPak, VerTerra and Caroma. Each chapter of the book is summarized with a New Rules Checklist in the form of a series of questions for any organization to use in assisting their green soul searching in pursuit of the new breed of green consumers.

One of Ottman's five marketing ground rules is "enlisting the support of third parties," and she provides a useful analysis of world-wide eco-labels and criteria for selecting Energy Star, Forest Stewardship Council, Carbon Trust, LEED Certification, Fair Trade, Green Seal USDA Organic and more. This includes the growing branded green labeling developed by companies such as HP's Ecohighlights label, SC Johnson's Greenlist and Timberland's Green Index. This is an interesting development that will hopefully help the consumer find eco-friendly packaging and products.

The New Green Rules of Marketing rounds off with detailed profiles of two organizations who "superbly address the new rules:" Timberland, with their "industry-leading carbon reduction strategies" and transparent sustainability brand-integrated communications combined with a social conscience; and Starbucks, whose entire operation is being revolutionized towards 100% recyclable cups and renewable energy in stores, supported by strong partnerships for promoting sustainable farming practices with Earthwatch and responsible coffee purchasing with Conservation International.

Jacquelyn Ottman, who was nicknamed "Junkie Jackie" by her siblings at the age of four for "dragging home treasures from the neighbor's trash" is someone who obviously felt the green calling well before green matured into what she now calls a "consumer phenomenon" - which has shifted from the fringe into mainstream and changed the rules of marketing. Her voice on green matters is authoritative and her book is compelling. If you are currently a Drifter or an Unconcerned, be careful, because reading this book might just turn you into one of the 43 million LOHAS consumers who are continuing to expand in number as you read this.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practicesContact me via  on Twitter or via my website
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