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Sustainable marketing – buzz or brilliance?

Posted by Lori Foster on 15th July 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hippy – I’ve got a selection of recycling bins and have even installed solar panels – but there’s only so far I’d go for Mother Earth and that line is drawn when it comes to using a compost toilet!

So when I went happily off to Glastonbury last month, I was expecting to find a few like-minded people (and possibly even discover the festival Holy Grail that is the solar powered shower!). Instead I found myself crammed into a tent with a load of 30-somethings, who were dressed as if they’d just wondered off of Primrose Hill, listening to thoughts on sustainable marketing.

A marketing mogul with an interest in the low carbon economy bounded about green ideas to the assembled crowd covering everything from ‘Clean Advertising’ which involves water jets displacing dirt from pavements to create a picture or a logo, to ‘Grass Crafting’ and DM mailers imbedded with seeds.

On principal these ideas seemed great – easy to implement, no expensive billboard rental costs and environmentally friendly to boot. However I still felt uneasy, as if I was being sold a new religion or a bagless vacuum cleaner – would it take off?

I started to investigate the use of clean advertising within the realms of the all-important client budget and to my surprise found that eight clean adverts, which comprise of a single logo, weigh-in at less than a full page ad in your average lifestyle magazine. I looked into it further and, as clean advertising is designated as ‘street cleaning’, there is no need to apply for council permission or pay any fees if your adverts are on public land, so there is another cost saving.

So cheap and sustainable, but it is effective? Well this depends on how it’s used – to direct people to events or exhibitions, this could be a real winner and would be perfect for kicking off a series of guerrilla marketing tactics, but as a standalone marketing tool, in my opinion it lacks cohesion and needs something else to validate it such as a microsite or leafleting campaign.

Sustainable marketing is making its mark, albeit slowly, but is not something that would be likely to replace the more traditional forms of consumer outreach. So whilst it could be added to the marketing mix, I don’t think it’s (yet) the revolution that will transform marketing into a low carbon activity.

Lori Foster