Archive for the ‘Green Marketing’ Category

By Maria O. Pinochet, Ethical Markets Research Advisory Board

According to advertising professionals, the declining attention span of audiences is a key factor in changes to recent advertising messages. The length of a person’s attention span depends on what a person is focused on and on what their level of interest is in a certain topic. Therefore, the normal period of focused attention fluctuates somewhere between seconds and minutes. In fact, studies, polls and data-gathering agencies report a downward trend for all types of attention spans – whether the activity is listening to a lecture, viewing a slide presentation, reading (this article!) or Web browsing.

With these declining attention spans, and in an effort to maintain the effectiveness of the advertising, many advertisers have chosen to create messages that appeal to simple human emotions such as fear and greed. They argue that, by sheer time constraint, advertising cannot develop a strong cognitive/rational argument and must, instead, present a “slice of life”; therefore, the message cannot be anything but an unbalanced representation.

Indeed, many companies take a bite of the green “slice of life,” but their green messaging turns out to be little more than a “sound bite” for consumer consumption. In such cases, a company’s public relations department has most likely crafted the green messaging in an effort to align with positive consumer opinions about how important it is for companies to behave in a socially responsive way, not only within the ecosystem that sustains their product and service but also toward the communities they serve.

However, upon further inquiry, one often finds no company involvement in green initiatives beyond the public relations as demonstrated by the number of sustainability officers emerging from marketing departments. Again, in such cases, the green “sound bite” is indeed just a “slice of life,” a green washing that has no more value than the delivery of its feel-good message.

When emotional appeal is used in advertising, it is much too easy for audiences with different value orientations to perceive messages as more or less skewed or unethical.  When that happens, advertising messages may become subject to a higher level of controversy and may even be considered a misrepresentation of stakeholder interest.

Some feel that this reliance on primal emotions has made advertising, in general, unethical. They say such messages have no transparency, lack depth and clarity and are thus completely disassociated from the brand, product and service values.  Nowhere is this more apparent or more disputed than in the new practice of neuromarketing, where technologies such as MRIs attempt to identify triggers to bypass a brain’s evaluation process and go straight to its decision-making centers. Ethical Markets Media and the World Business Academy believe  neuromarketing’s deliberate attempt to influence buyers in a manner that inhibits their evaluation processes is manipulative and unethical.  They have a petition which anyone can sign to have this practice stopped.

There is guidance and reward for companies that have as their core value to better inform buyers and to serve all stakeholders. The EthicMark®, one of the highest honors in advertising, recognizes companies that contribute positively to the advertising community with their inspirational messaging. Founded by Hazel Henderson of Ethical Markets Media, the EthicMark® is awarded by the World Business Academy for advertising “that uplifts the human spirit and society.”

Organizations like Ethical Markets Media, the World Business Academy and SRI in the Rockies (where EthicMark® winners are announced) are raising awareness about the positive contributions of ethical advertising.  What are you and your organization doing to raise the bar and write the next chapter in the history of advertising?

Readers: What’s your take on neuromarketing – and ethical marketing? Share your ideas on Talkback!

Note: This article has appeared on CSRwire

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by Megan Yarnall

When I was growing up, my exposure to video games was limited, thanks to my mother. She didn’t want her kids to be influenced by the violent behavior and gore often depicted – and acted out – on the screen. Studies show that children are influenced by what they see on the screen, and at that time the influence was believed to be largely negative.

However, it’s been shown that games can have a positive influence: according to Jane McGonigal in an article from the Huffington Post, when players can “the best version of themselves” in a game, they set high aspirations and are confident within the game, and this “can trickle into our real lives.” Kids who played Rock Band and Guitar Hero, says McGonigal, expressed more interest in music and learning how to play instruments outside of the game as well. And if this is true for music, why not recycling?

Green games such as LogiCity, The Climate Change Game, CEO2- Climate Business, and Plan It Green are all examples of video gaming for good. These games teach players how to manage the environment and business to effectively take care of the planet and consider how our actions affect the health of the Earth. TerraCycle’s own Trash Tycoon is taking on the recycling problem.

If someone recycles in a game, and decides what to make with the trash and recyclables they collect, they can think of this off the screen when they are in their kitchen or in the school cafeteria. With Trash Tycoon, for example, when players buy Kraft Cheese food items in the game, and recycled the plastic cheese packaging in the game, the same behavior is more likely to be emulated in daily life. According to McGonigal’s article, kids who played “ ‘pro-social’ games […] are more likely to help friends, family, and neighbors in real-life for a full week after playing the game. Positive behavior in a game can translate into positive behavior in reality.

Embracing these trends and using games in a positive light can be an important tool in encouraging change, especially for kids. By making a game out of recycling and environmental care, kids forget that they’re learning and don’t realize that they’re creating daily and potentially life-long habits thanks to their entertainment.

Not convinced? According to Huffington Post once again, “playing games can prepare us to tackle challenges like curing cancer, ending world hunger, and stopping climate change.” Games can make a difference. Giving people of all ages the chance to experience real-world consequences through a game can give them a sense of the reality of that problem. Let the kids put their hand on that mouse and play away.

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by Andrew Winston

As a car, the all-electric Nissan Leaf has received mostly great reviews. But as a positioning statement, Nissan has, in many marketers’ eyes, missed the boat. After some missteps, Nissan may now be on the right path. An ad I pulled from Fast Company recently hits all the right marks.

The debate — or more accurately criticism — began last year with a now infamous ad showing a polar bear lugging himself from the Arctic to some guy’s suburban driveway to hug him for buying a Leaf. The ad was gorgeous, no doubt, and the YouTube version has been viewed 1.3 million times, which isn’t bad. But some green marketing leaders, such as Jacquie Ottman, found it a bit heavy-handed and way too focused on the hyper-green benefits vs. driving experience.

But even before getting to ads, some have pointed out that the name itself is a problem. A “Leaf” doesn’t exactly speak to the same part of the male brain that car ads usally target — the caveman lobe that asks, “How will this car make me sexy and powerful?”.

As one ad agency exec with a specialty in green marketing told me, “What guy is going to the pub and saying, ‘Hey, I test drove a Leaf’?” As she pointed out, the print ads have focused on images like seals and kelp — it’s basically the worst of green marketing, “like it’s packaged in burlap.”

Instead, experts suggest that the Leaf should be positioned in a much more exciting way, as the first electric car for the masses and a true innovation. This, Nissan could trumpet, is a new era of mobility!

So skip to the latest print ad, in which Nissan does something new. A fascinating, colorful graphic shows different cars on a spectrum of fuel efficiency. The axis is not, however, miles per gallon, but “miles traveled for one dollar.” As the ad says in small print: “comparing miles per gallon is suddenly irrelevant.”


The traditional mpg metric has always been really odd: who thinks that way? And the government has had a devil of a time plugging (forgive me) electric cars into their normal rating system. What the heck does miles per gallon mean if you use no gallons?

But showing how far I can go for each dollar I spend? Now that’s dead on. This is brilliant marketing, in tight economic times or at any time. Nissan has declared a new metric for a completely new model of transportation. Bravo.

(This post first appeared at Harvard Business Online.)

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