As companies with a sustainability mission, we often find that building, and maintaining, a brand image that is persistent with customers but also congruous with our core values can be a challenge. After all, much of marketing is about getting your message in front of people as often as possible. And what that often means is the creation of piles of physical marketing materials. As sustainable companies, creating reams of paper products, plastic gadgets, bumper stickers, and the like is inherently distasteful. Worse, it creates a risk that our brand will be viewed negatively by those who want to see less “stuff” in the world. In other words, many of our current and potential customers.
So how do we go about branding without creating stuff that people will view negatively? Since those negative views will naturally carry over to the brand emblazoned on the items themselves, we want to make sure that any marketing materials (schwag) we create is only of the utmost eco-quality.
Business Cards and Other Paper Products
A few years ago, I did some sustainability consulting for a large conglomerate company that works in the manufacturing sector. They indicated they were very into sustainability, and flew me out to meet their Green Team. As soon as I walked in the door, their head guy extended a warm handshake, and handed me a…plastic business card. Talk about a colossal fail.
Skip the gimmicky business cards, and go with something that both feels right and will be memorable to your customers. Here’s a business card we use at Pono Home. Note that the back is clearly labeled from GreenerPrinter.com, with 100% recycled (60% post consumer recycled) paper.
Figure that you’ll want your other print marketing materials to be similarly labeled as green products: mailers, flyers, and the like.
There’s a wide range of other other items you can use for green marketing. Companies like Quality Logo Products have eco-friendly alternatives such as reusable tote bags and water bottles, for instance.
A key consideration is to think about what your customers need and want in their daily lives. If you’re in business or starting a natural foods co-op, then clearly reusable grocery bags make a ton of sense. If your company makes organic, fair trade, and shade grown (rainforest friendly) coffee, you might want to consider a reusable coffee mug.
At the end of the day, what matters in marketing is creating genuine connections with your customers. By giving them something they can feel good about using, but that also reminds them of your brand, you’ll engender positive feelings toward your company.
Logo image from All logos 88, and this post contains sponsored content.
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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