Jacquelyn Ottman, Green Marketeer and Author of The New Rules of Green Marketing

When you’ve got as much green marketing gray matter synapsing in your cranium as Jacquelyn Ottman does, I’d imagine that it’s difficult to keep your thoughts to 140 characters or less. But that’s exactly what I challenged my friend to do last week. Jacquie graciously accepted my Twitterview challenge to talk about her take on sustainability.

She is an author of four books on green marketing and sustainability, and has been at it longer than most; evidenced by her business residing at the ultimate green marketing URL: GreenMarketing.com. A great example of first-come-first-served.

I met Jacquelyn on St. Patrick’s Day, 2011, over a bagel in her neighborhood deli on the upper east side, wrote about the meeting, and we have been pals ever since. Her brilliant mind is turning to waste. But I’ll let her tell you about that.

Q1: When did you start working in the emerging field of green marketing? Most think it’s a relatively new industry.

I opened my firm in 1989. The term green marketing didn’t exist. I made up the term.

Q2: You’ve been in green marketing long before “green was” cool – 24 years now – What are you seeing and thinking?

I now appreciate saying ‘every overnight sensation was 20 years in the making’ Green Mktg is still finding its way.

Q3: I read your 4th book “The New Rules of Green Mktg”http://bit.ly/KPtMmK. Why do you think green marketing is just getting started?

Green marketing needs to be more than buying green vs brown products — we need to create a culture of conservation.

Q4: Can you do something to affect cultural change? Isn’t materialism too entrenched? 

I hope not! Am now working on a new blog about changing culture around waste in our daily lives.

Q5: Intriguing. Why the emphasis on waste?

There’s so much wasted energy, food waste, packaging, water. All consumers can get involved and save money.

 Q6: In a Huffington Post article, http://huff.to/IUvMWS you suggest that people polled say they’re greener than they really are. Why?

Consumers may think that Tide is green when they know phosphates and biodegradable is on label. Is only Seventh Generation green?

Q7: What is the #1 challenge for green marketers when persuading consumers to be more sustainable?

Inertia. Consumers buy products to do a job. So established (trusted) brands (green or no) have the leg up.

Q8: I know you feel strongly about accusations that a lot of green marketing is greenwashing. Do you still feel that way?

Yes. Most greenwashing is inadvertent. We’re still learning how to communicate green – it’s naturally confusing.

Q9: Do you think the revised FTC Green Guides will make a difference?

Revised Green Guides will define more terms. And ban generalize env’l claims. This will lead to more specificity.

Q10: How much does age play into your general “green-ness?”

 Each generation has its own reasons for being green but all generations are now squarely green.

I personally was proud of the Baby Boom. I went to my 1st Earth Day as a High School freshman.

Q11: In your article http://huff.to/IUvMWS you say green is a “cozy” term, but poses challenges for consumer pollsters. Why?

Green covers so many terms from recycled to fair trade. Can anyone really define “green product” or “green consumer”?

Q12: You are a mainstay at the Sustainable Brands Conference, so how come you weren’t there this year?

I was sorry to miss it, but I will speak @LOHASForum and other confs that represent new audience for my book.

Q13: How is the LOHAS Forum different than Sustainable Brands, and what do you hope to takeaway?

The LOHAS Forum represents what’s coming next. I want to help them give their worthwhile brands a boost.

Q14: The New Rules of Green Marketing http://bit.ly/IUK2Pi is your 4th book on sustainability. What are three takeaways?

Takeaway #1:  Green is mainstream; it requires new messages based on segments, and messages that lead with primary benefits.

Takeaway #2: Single attribute-focused marketing is no longer enough. Need LCA approach to product design and communications.

Takeaway #3: Need to influence behavior, e.g., get consumers to turn off H2O in addition to using Toms of Maine toothpaste.

Q15: What’s the biggest mistake green marketers make, and where should they turn?

They need to focus on entire life cycle, not single attributes. E.g., need to focus on disposal of CFLs not just the energy.