The Fast Lane: Marketing green vs. green marketing


This article first appeared in The Zweig A/E Marketing Letter (ISSN 1549-9588)
Issue # 121. Originally published


Learn how environmentally responsible marketing and sustainable messages give new meaning to the term “green marketing.”


Over this past spring, the SMPS listserve has included a rather lively discussion, through a number of postings, about “marketing green,” the marketing of sustainable, environmentally responsible and responsive design and construction services, as well as the pros and cons of having a firm’s marketing staff achieve LEED AP status.


By the time the discussion was over, a tiny seed had been planted in the back of my mind, a seed that has since blossomed into two interesting (for me, anyway) questions: first, could there also be such a thing as “green marketing”? And second, if there could be, what form would it take?


Certainly the use of Internet web sites and PDF brochures rather than printed ones is an obvious answer, since this saves trees, has no chemical process to make paper and requires no ink, another chemical, to print, and therefore results in no hazardous waste. And electronic proposals and other submittals are more of the same.


And from a budgetary standpoint, the more likely the brochure’s information is to change, the better the reason to use less expensive production and/or presentation methods. Perhaps the pieces that change often should be printed in-house, in small quantities and when needed. That way, when the information has to be updated, you don’t have to make the choice between using materials that are out of date or throwing away a lot of expensive brochures.


A relatively new thing is the use of an electronic brochure distributed on a DVD. People mail them to you and hand them out at trade shows and conferences. This is so widespread today that it’s almost become a required component in the AEC and environmental firm’s arsenal of marketing tools. However, I suspect that making the plastics for the media and case are far more dangerous than the paper-making or printing process. And you’d still have to print and attach some kind of label. Is this perhaps just an issue of magnitude?


What about a firm’s commitment to the use of sustainable design and construction practices as a standard, their normal way of doing work, not just something you do when an individual client requires it for a specific project. Such a commitment often results in the kind of project whose marketing value can last as long as the building or roadway remains standing and in use.


And when your firm has “signature projects” like these, you can leave them in your brochures, rather than constantly updating the brochure for a newer project picture, because these projects are remembered and still admired over a much longer period of time.


Finally, what about sustainable messages— messages that are crafted to stand the test of time, so that we’re not spending a lot of time and money crafting a new identity every year or six months. How long has Maytag been telling us that its repairmen are the loneliest men in the world? How long have we known that, at Zenith Electronics, the quality goes in before the name goes on? How successful was Ford’s reintroduction of the late 1960’s Mustang design 30 years later?


These sustainable messages are often your brand— the promises that your firm makes that it must live up to every day of every year. In sustaining the promise of quality and/or service that is your brand, the message helps to sustain your firm through the ups and downs, spirals, and dislocations of the business cycle.


At a recent meeting I attended, someone noted that we often use the words “effective” and “efficient” interchangeably, and asked the difference between the two. The speaker said that to be “effective” was to do the right thing, and to be “efficient” was to do the thing right.


Is “green marketing” an idea whose time has come? Is it the right thing which we should all do right? I don’t really know, and I certainly can’t make any pronouncements for our entire industry, but I will point out that signature projects and sustainable messages can have a very long “coffee table life.” Ask Maytag, and Zenith, and Ford.


Bernie Siben, CPSM, is corporate marketing director with Quad Knopf, Inc. (Visalia, CA). Contact him at (559) 733-0440 or at


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