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Is the “going green” message still worth it?

Green marketing has been all the rage, at least until now. However, under the pressure of a continuing bad economy, no one seems sure whether “going green” may be showing signs of wilting.  Everyone acknowledges that in virtually every product category, the price of “going green” is usually steeper than the alternative. And, with the recession putting the squeeze on consumer spending, the question is: should we continue pushing “environmentally correct” products and the “going green” message?

According to a study by the American Marketing Association and Fleishman-Hillard reported in eMarketer Daily, companies are still investing in green and telling their customers about it. “At a time when the economy requires everyone to stay focused on the essentials, it’s noteworthy that businesses are putting sustainability programs into that must-do column,” said Nancy Costopulos of the AMA.

But behind the outward bravado, there’s apparent concern. When asked if consumers would pay more for green products now, 49 percent disagreed, and only 40 percent agreed. Further, the marketers’ optimism was tempered when more than one-half indicated they do not expect to increase any green marketing. In fact, the survey showed that even the most popular green sustainability programs, like recycling and electric energy efficiency, are being embraced by only a minority of businesses, 36 percent and 20 percent, respectively. 

Certainly the economic crunch has driven tighter spending across the board. As consumers continue to make tough choices, they will spend less on products that don’t deliver a rational benefit, according to Nielsen’s research analysts. So, “going green” will be fueled more by cost-cutting than planet-saving intentions. Families on tighter budgets will be less likely to pay extra for environmentally-sustainable “green” products, but they will still improve the environment as a by-product of cost-cutting strategies.

For example, we can expect consumers to continue saving money on gas by combining errands (result: lower car emissions).  Similarly, consumers will purchase less non-essential goods (result: produce less waste). Manufacturers will also incorporate more sustainable manufacturing techniques to save on costs rather than the planet. For example, by using more efficient product packaging, they’ll also be good to the environment.

Fortunately, for marine dealers, green marketing continues to be both appealing and easily sustainable. For example, our engine technology is so improved these days that we should be pointing out its green impact. Moreover, we have a steadily growing number of Clean Marinas nationwide attesting to our claim of being a green business. Then, there’s the host of biodegradable products on our store shelves that are green products and should be strongly promoted as such, and the list goes on.

For boating, at least, “going green” and telling our customers about it remains a solid marketing approach to a customer base that, by its nature, is very receptive and has the financial resources to respond to our continuing green message.


8 comments on “Is the “going green” message still worth it?

  1. Nadine Burns

    Good article about Green, and we at Thetford have developed products that are not only “Green” but they are powerful, cost about the same as their non-green counterpart and are have been recognized by the two certification bodies that test in this realm: The Designed for the Environment EPA certification and the North American EcoLogo recognition, which is North America’s oldest most recognized and respected environmental standard and certification organization and the only standard accredited by the Global Eco-Labeling Network.
    If a product does not have these marks, how can they claim to be really green? And how can we educate consumers that this is what these are the marks they need to look for when buying “green.”

  2. arch

    I TOTALLY disagree with your last paragraph.
    “GOING GREEN” is 98% marketing. Smart people know this. It’s become so common now, that it comes across as insincere.
    There is nothing wrong with a business going green. It’s a GOOD thing. But rather than just say they are going green, because it’s the “IN” thing to do right now, don’t even mention going green. Advertise about your improved technology, how environmentally conscious you are, how much cleaner it is, how it’s bigdegradable.
    Besides, it’s become a politcally charged word that to many of us, is perceived as negative due to the global warming alarmists and radical environmentalists.
    Everywhere you go and everything you read you see the words “GOING GREEN”. It’s marketing, that’s all it is. If I owned a business, you couldn’t pay me to use those words. It’s insincere at best.

  3. Reuben Trane

    When Island Pilot decided to make a “green” product, the main motivation was not so much for being “green” in and of itself, but to save the owner fuel while still having a quality cruising experience. I feel that most conscienctious boaters will pay something extra for a “green” boating product – after all, a soiled waterway is NOT condusive to a fun time. The goal is not so much to market a boating product as “green,” but to make one that is “green” and that can be purchased for a minimal premium over a competive, “non-green” product. Our international award-winning DSe Hybrid 12m has captured the imagination of many of the boating public with is ability to cruise and be lived aboard without the need to replenish the diesel fuel – ALL her needs can be met by solar energy and/or bio fuels. Our next steps willl be to add wind power while looking closely at ALL her ingredients to see where we can continue to make sustainable choices in her construction and outfitting.

  4. Gordy McKelvey

    I agree with Arch 100%. I think the “Greens” have just about pulled all the slack out of their ski rope. People are getting educated on “green products” and they are finding out it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. I’m all for cleaner more efficent engines, generators and boat building methods, but we must remember that if we boaters invest in the “green concept” we need to see more bang for our buck other than warm and fuzzy feelings in the pit of our gut.

    One of our former Vice Presidents keeps his ultra geen house boat at a marina in Middle Tennessee. All of the green technology that went into the boat is bolt on equipment that has been on the market for years. The boat carries 2000 pounds of batteries to supply power to several inverters. The heat generated by the batteries and inverters requires the generator be run constantly to operate the HVAC to keep the boat cooled down so the family can use it. What is gained by that ?

    For “Green” to succeed it must perform better than what’s out there now and cost the same as the conventional products on the market today.

  5. dave

    I agree with Arch,

    A company that gets my dollars, is Just doing the right thing with a quality product. A large percentage of these “certifiers” mean nothing and are just another layer of fluff.

    In recent months, I have gone out of my way to avoid products that sell by the politics of global warming and radical eco-terrorists, who know nothing of science, the facts or how I want to live aboard my boat with the smallest footprint possible.

    Make products that make it easy and sensible to leave less residue…read packaging, waste, etc…and let the product stand on IT’S merit…not some politico or cause you may support.

    KUdos to IP for their work on lessening the impact and footprint and for their honesty. Good comments all around

  6. Reuben Trane

    Yes, much of the “green” marketing is hype and folks climbing on the band wagon. One could call the Volvo IPS system “green” in that you use less fuel to get more HP to the water than traditional drive trains – therefore emitting less pollutants and decreasing the need for foreign oil. It is really a “green” product? Regardless of your answere, it is a step in the right direction.

    Regarding the houseboat mentioned in Gordy’s post – it sounds as if that installation was not properly thought out. The integration we’ve done with the DSe actually works as intended. Do we have a lot of batteries? Yes. Do we have a lot of inverter capacity? Yes. Do we need to run air conditioning with a diesel generator to keep the boat cool due to the battery and inverter heat? NO. Can we run air conditioning on inverter only using battery power that is from a renewable source (the sun)? Yes. Can we cook using the same power source? Yes. Can we drive the boat using the same power source? Yes.

    In other words, the DSe is a truly “green” product and should not be confused with hype or with other attempts (note the houseboat mentioned above) that just don’t make it. Damning those who are trying to create “green” products by painting all with the same broad brush is just wrong.

    I feel it is important for our industry to make steps, baby steps perhaps, but steps nonetheless towards products that use less fuel, pollute less, use more renewable components and, in general, become a part of the solution. The last thing we want is to have CAFE standards for boats.

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