I have a love/hate relationship with the “got milk?” campaign. The campaign itself is brilliant branding and marketing. It’s become an iconic movement around a basic product. As an advertiser, what more can you ask for?
The campaign sours for me with every hackneyed use of the tagline.
A dentist asks on a billboard around the corner from our office: “got teeth?”
An attorney questions: “got divorce?”
Even ATV dealers take it for a spin: “got sand?”.
It’s certainly admirable to have such a copy-catted call-to-action, but you have to admit, it curdles the original brand in the process.
The approach to most green marketing is becoming unoriginal, too. Clichéd. It’s great that you are doing your part to “reduce your use,” “lessen your carbon footprint”, and be “eco-friendly.”
If you want your story about sustainability to truly stand out, avoid these ten cliches of green marketing…
- Resist the urge to put the word “green” in the name of your company or product, unless you’re opening a paint store that only sells shades of green, then it’s relevant.
- Green leafy logos are in their autumn. They’re so prevalent, they actually camouflage your brand. Don’t believe me? Google green logo, and tell me which one stands out from the forest of forgettable designs.
The recycling logo is boring unless it is presented in an inventive way.
- We get it, we live on planet Earth. You’re saving planet Earth. You don’t need planet Earth in your ad. It’s redundant.
- Consumers are smart. They know that being “Green” is a good thing. It’s like smoke-free restaurants, it’s expected. So don’t tell us how green you are. Show us.
- Fresh green grass and crisp blue skies are important for our neighborhoods, but they don’t have to inhabit your website unless you’re a solar-powered lawn service.
- Anyone can say, “All natural.” But if you don’t mean it, don’t use it. You’re wrecking it for products that are actually natural.
- If you have ever said, “We’re a green (insert company, product or service here)” then you’ve committed green fogging which is a term I just made up about diminishing the view of your really important brand attributes by trying to appear concerned about the planet.
- Kids and daisies in your ads and on your website are cute, but they don’t sell product. Great products that are affordable, convenient and healthy for you and the planet are what sells.
- Hand-drawn typefaces that express “being organic” work with organic consumables, but really nothing else.
Other trite visuals to avoid include anything remotely environmental in cupped hands, lightbulbs, clouds, a globe in a water drop, and just about everything related to carbon offsetting. Those are terms for engineers and most consumers, even the really smart ones, don’t know what you’re talking about.
Here’s a PDF of the “Got Green?” presentation including the 18 questions to ask yourself if your brand is suffering from “Gang Green,” the brand-curdling condition of clichéd anonymity that leads to something worse than death: Irrelevance.
Or, checkout the presentation on SlideShare below.
What are clichés in green marketing that you’ve seen?
If you’re looking to feel inspired, check out these 10 sustainable brands that turned their green marketing campaigns into movements.
at 12:13 pm
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Park. Argh – if this article could pop up in search engines at the tippy top of “green marketing” results, you’d save a lot of marketers a lot of wasted effort. All these now-cliched terms may have started out with good intentions (and may have had some positive impact in helping consumers find a sustainable alternative product/service), but… whoa have they all been co-opted. Marketers that still rely on these cliches (and visuals) today are a tad lazy and missing the point – indeed!
at 12:19 pm
Thanks, Andrea. I had a lot of fun writing this presentation, which can be downloaded as a PDF from the post, or on SlideShare. It hit me the other day when I saw the “Got Teeth?” billboard, and how the lack of originality is starting to really dilute the “Green” marketing industry, too. Seemeld like a natural connection.
Thanks for your great comments. I’m glad you’re seeing it too, and that I’m not just holed up in a back woods cabin wearing a hoodie.
at 2:32 pm
After publishing almost 5000 promotions for green products on Ecobunga!, I couldn’t agree more, Park, with the importance of making sure your eco-messaging stands out from the crowd. For online marketing, however, I would just add the caveat that it is useful from an SEO perspective to have a domain name and keyword-rich content that reflects top search terms. So, as you suggest, it’s good to name a product or company something that doesn’t include green or similarly over-used eco-term, but still very important to check what search words people are using to find your kind of product. For example, if your company produces biodegradable garbage bags, but searchers are using “green garbage bags” above any other type of comparable search term (i.e., biodegradable or compostable garbage bags), you’ll want to be sure that keyword/phrase is reflected prominently in your site and/or domain name to improve search results. This is particularly important for brands which aren’t household names yet because very few people are actually searching on the brand name, but they may be searching on the product concept (green cleaner; recycled office paper, etc.) Anyways, thanks for a great post!
at 2:37 pm
Thanks for your comment, Karen. Your SEO tips are incredibly important, given that I’m preaching brand names away from the typical “Green” stuff. heck, I think there’s a whole new post in there somewhere. Thanks for sharing your insight.
at 12:07 pm
[…] company names products and services is getting old. And there are others too. I just did a post on 10 big green clichés that you want to avoid—and one of them is to avoid calling yourself green unless you’ve got […]
at 7:11 am
[…] company names products and services is getting old. And there are others too. I just did a post on 10 big green clichés that you want to avoid—and one of them is to avoid calling yourself green unless you’ve got the […]
at 11:11 am
[…] “Got green?” and 10 other brand-curdling clichés to avoid in your green marketing […]