A cautionary take about Eco-Ads

What are eco-ads? They spring from marketing strategies, often within large corporations, which address the need to present companies as being friendly towards the environment.

Companies recognize that many of their customers are concerned about the environment, and want to be seen as making positive moves in the right direction.

A number of examples of these eco-ads are featured in a recent article in The New York Times.

What is the cautionary element here?

In a nutshell, if you say it, you need to do it. In other words, you can’t just write an ad about how you are taking steps to protect the environment, you have to actually take those steps.

This issue of transparency is addressed in a lot more detail in Dr. Flint McGlaughlin’s essay on Transparent Marketing.

If you don’t walk the talk, someone will catch you. This is exactly what happened when Starbucks publicly promised that anyone walking into any Starbucks coffee shop would be served Fair Trade Coffee on request.

The announcement was made to please supporters of the Fair Trade Coffee movement. Unfortunately, not all the store managers were told about this. So when people asked for their Fair Trade Coffee, in many cases none was available.

And before you could say, “Darn that Internet”, the Starbucks Challenge had been created by a couple of bloggers, and hundreds of people around the world walked into Starbucks shops and deliberately asked for Fair Trade Coffee. They then posted their experiences online for everyone to read.

The moral of the story is that promises relating to the environment generate a lot of passions and expectations.

Few people will argue against the benefits of large companies supporting environmental issues. And eco-ads are part of that.

But you need to follow the path of Transparent Marketing. And you have to keep your promises.

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