Recycled, Recyclable, and Green…Oh My

Fads in consumer products have always been a driving force in consumer behavior. Take, for example, the power of trend marketing in influencing the purchasing habits of health-conscious folks. Labels such as “fat free” and “reduced fat” were all the rage in the 1990’s, but have since given way to food industry buzz words such as “low carb” and “organic.”

These labels automatically cause us consumers think about reaching our goals like eating healthy or taking our waist size down a few belt notches. However, they do very little to describe the health benefits the food we eat actually provides. Is it truly beneficial in helping us create a balanced diet? These trends and the marketing efforts which capitalize on them extend far beyond yogurt, chips, and ice cream.

Recently, as we become more aware of the global environmental footprint we leave as an economy, this concern has been addressed once again by product labels. Everywhere we see “recycled material,” “recyclable,” and “green,” but how can we as captains of merchandise make sure that we effectively and ethically market these terms?

An entire sub-industry of promotional product has been created around the idea of preserving this giant greenhouse we live in. In promotional marketing, we look to find the best product for our customers. It is so important that we commit to our due diligence and look for products which truly offer a benefit to the environment and, furthermore, communicate that benefit effectively to our customers.

Green promotional product labels can be deceptive.

When branding a product as green or recycled it is important to make sure we communicate which benefits the product provides. If it made from recyclables…which recyclables and which parts of the product are manufactured from these materials? Perhaps it is comprised of discarded tires. If it is recyclable, does that mean that one part or the entire product can be used in the next generation of consumer goods? Perhaps the handle on the bag is non-recyclable.

It is of the utmost importance that we communicate the specific environmental benefits to our customers. This is one case were we, as purveyors of product, owe our target audience an explanation in advance. To help understand how to qualify green labels and avoid deceptive language you can find the regulations and guidelines at a government website geared towards small business owners.

Trends can be lucrative on which to capitalize, but they must be leveraged with complete disclosure and total responsibility. It is important that we, as marketers, sell a spade as a spade, but it is more important that we ensure that our customers know that we are selling spades and not hearts or clubs.