Green Marketing and the Death of Curmudgeonly Contrariness

On Monday, my friend and colleague, Joel Makower, editor of GreenBiz.com, posted an article entitled, "Green Marketing Is Over. Let's Move On." He actually quoted me in the article to make his point ... and I believe he's off the mark. Hence a course correction:

Dear Joel:

Sigh. You're missing the point, my friend. Even though you say you're defining "green marketing" as "marketing aimed at getting people to buy stuff that's better for the environment," that's not really what you're lamenting. What you seem to be upset about, what you seem to be declaring dead, is the marketing of stuff that's good for the environment with an environmental message attached to it. Marketing products, in essence, with an "it'll save the planet!" message.

That is dead. In fact, it was mostly never alive. Very few Americans have ever bought stuff because they want to save the planet. As I've hammered home in this blog countless times, people buy green products for a host of other reasons -- to feel more comfortable, to gain peace of mind, to limit the chemicals their families are exposed to, to feel independent, to feel smart, and/or to have something beautiful they can look at all day long. And in Shelton Group's view, that's awesome!

It doesn't matter to us at all that people don't buy green products to save the planet, as long as they buy them. Our approach, in fact, is to figure out exactly what motivates a consumer in a particular category and leverage that to get them to buy.

It's no different from Walmart/Sam's Club eliminating all the laundry detergent from their shelves that's not in a concentrated formula. They eliminated the more wasteful choice so everyone who shops there now has to buy the friendlier, more concentrated formula. Thus, way more Americans now buy concentrated laundry detergent eliminating about a bazillion tons of extra packaging in landfills.

Again, the result is what all of us in the green space want ... why on earth does the how-we-get-there part matter?