Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day Marketing Mayhem ROI

Earth Day is now a marketing frenzy, but what is the return on the investment (ROI) for green marketing at this time of year? According to a recent GreenBiz article there is questionable value to environmental promotions at this time of year. Albe Zakes, the global vice president of media relations for TerraCycle, says Earth Day is not the best time for major initiatives. TerraCycle which helps companies with recycling programs, actively dissuades their customers from launching major initiatives on or around Earth Day.

"With everyone and their mother doing some kind of quasi-green messaging around Earth Day, you risk a truly environmentally responsible promotion, product or service getting lumped into consumer's green fatigue and being consider green washing," Zekes says. "Moreover, green media - and mainstream media for that matter - is inundated with so many 'green' pitches that truly noteworthy stories get overlooked. Better to wait a month or two when the masses are pitching product reviews for Mother's Day and Father's Day and your new recycling drive or solar installation will get more notice."

This view is mirrored by some of the largest PR and marketing firms in the US. Susan McPherson, senior vice president and global director of marketing for cause marketing giant Fenton, says she no longer finds Earth Day promotions of value to clients.

The increasing popularity of Earth Day as a marketing opportunity has decreased the reach and penetration of individual green messages. All the activity taking place around Earth Day has actually decreased the value of running a promotion at this time because it is hard to have your message heard above all the noise. Legitimate environmentally themed messages are also being undermined by those who are greenwashing and consumers who may be suffering from green fatigue.

Eddie Fernandez, vice president at OgilvyEarth, the sustainability arm of international PR, marketing and advertising powerhouse Ogilvy said "up until four or five years ago, Earth Day made sense as a relevant and timely opportunity to raise awareness of sustainability news and initiatives. But in the last few years it has become so overcrowded that it's harder to place media stories as reporters are being bombarded with a 'green' story from every company under the sun. Visibility around major initiatives and campaigns companies may want to announce is not getting the same [return on investment], and the allure of Earth Day has caused some companies to greenwash, further devaluing it for other companies."

When launching a green promotional message other environmentally oriented days offer far more exposure due to a much less crowded marketing space. Earth Day may not be the best time to release news or launch an eco-campaign but it may be a good time for internal communications.

Fernandez says one way to cut through the clutter of Earth Day marketing mayhem is to provide research. "Research is a hot commodity for media to weave into their Earth Day stories," he says. "If companies are conducting sustainability research with broad appeal, they could still earn great media attention."

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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