September 18th, 2018 BY Douglas Lober

What Green Promotional Products Can Do for Your Brand

In this day and age, “green” is no longer a gimmick or a novelty. It’s a true way of life, and one that to which clients and customers expect to see you adhere. Of course, if you’re like most of today’s businesses, that’s not much of an imposition, because you want to do right by the Earth and leave it intact for your children’s children.

Sometimes, unfortunately, business efforts can seem contrary to that desire. How do you market yourself wisely and well without buying products that add to your carbon footprint? How can you entice people to participate in your services or buy your products without becoming yet another clamorous peddler demanding their attention?

The answer: Make a sincere effort through green branding. Sound hard? It’s not. Today, let’s talk about what green products can do for your brand and the Earth at the same time.

Truly Green Products Help the Earth

First, it’s important to differentiate between greenwashed products and truly green ones. The former is a product ostensibly made of a sustainable resource, then marketed as helpful to the planet. However, if the product was made in a factory that pollutes waterways, includes lots of chemicals or non-environmentally friendly ingredients, or requires a lot of fuel to transport materials in, then it’s not really green.

Your job? To distinguish between products that seem environmental and those that actually are eco-friendly. This might seem like a tough distinction, but that’s where due diligence comes in.

The best approach is to call and talk to the company. Any business that won’t speak to its customers openly and honestly, explaining what materials they use and how they manufacture their items, isn’t worth your time or money. It’s also not worth the potential backlash from posing as green while working with imposter providers. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you avoid toxic chemicals in consumer products?
  • What do you do to minimize fuel consumption?
  • Do you analyze or offset your carbon footprint in any way?
  • Do you use renewable or recycled materials?
  • How long do your products last?

Ideally, the products you choose are reusable for long periods of time. Think well-made clothing, durable bags and pens whose ink actually flows onto the paper rather than only onto your bag or desk.

That said, you do need to ensure your marketing dollar pays you back. That’s where ROI comes in.

Choose Products That Will Bring a Good ROI

Green marketing, like any other kind, relies on achieving a high ROI. Otherwise you’re wasting your marketing dollar and efforts.

However, many companies mistake this need for the need to buy the cheapest possible product. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that you simply can’t buy a green product for the cheapest possible price. Products predicated on overseas mass production in countries with low environmental standards will always win out over honest, ecofriendly items. Buy them, and you can say goodbye to any hopes you had of branding yourself as green.

The second problem is that the cheapest products break down super quickly. If your event swag or customer loyalty products become trash 3-6 months later, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Instead, you need long-lasting gear that will continue to market your company in the background for years to come.

But what gear should you choose?

Well, that’s a personal question that has to do with your company’s products, services, industry, interests, location, charities, employees and more. However, marketing research does indicate that some products are better than others at grabbing a high ROI. (1)

Leading the charge are bags at 1,000 impressions per marketing dollar and writing utensils at 500 per dollar, the latter tying with billboards. Popular items such as calendars get 333, with shirts coming in at 200 and primetime cable at 200 as well. Unfortunately, common approaches such as TV, radio and newspapers all weigh in at less than 50 impressions each.

For obvious reasons, items such as bags and pens should lead your efforts. However, clothing has a nice green tinge as well, since it lasts so long … especially if you choose well-made and appealing items.

Use Green Products as Part of Green Efforts

Now, take this advice with a grain of salt. Obviously, if your company is outside the green space – think education, say, or legal services – then you can’t devote all your marketing efforts to helping the Earth. You must market your company first and foremost, or you have no hope of making change for the sake of the planet.

But at least some of your marketing attempts should flow with green efforts. For instance, you can offer Earth Day discounts, or holiday charity drives that benefit environmental organizations. You could line up your campaigns with National Pollinator Week in June, or Earth Hour in March, when you switch off all electricity to highlight energy use reduction.

You’ll enjoy more than ROI from these campaigns. You’ll also earn a true appreciation from your clients and customers of your green approach. And that, as we shall see next, is critical to your efforts.

Caveat: You Must Back Your Efforts with Sincere Commitment

While using environmentally friendly marketing is a great way to bring more clients and customers on board – and to give them that boost that come with helping the Earth – you must make sure to do so sincerely. There’s nothing worse than a superficial effort that does nothing but highlight your lack of commitment to real change.

“Green marketing is about your whole company,” BDC Business Consultant Chris O’Shea told BDC of Canada. “You really have to be authentic. If you’re not, people will accuse you of greenwashing and your reputation will suffer.” He adds that having just one green product in your marketing or sales lineup can seem a little suspicious. (2)

Greenwashing, like whitewashing or brainwashing, is never a good thing. So before you run off and purchase green products to impress your customers, ask yourself some important questions:

  • What else am I willing to do to reduce my footprint on the Earth?
  • What simple steps can I take to use less energy, such as LEED-certification or energy-efficient appliances/devices?
  • What other green products am I willing to purchase/use as promotional items?
  • What resources am I willing to devote to developing a long-term green strategy?

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do for your business is to approach all of your efforts sincerely. Naturally this is critical for your environmental efforts, but a robust brand develops only when you commit yourself fully to everything you do. Clients and customers want to see that you care, whether that’s about them, your products or the Earth – so put your money where your mouth is and back up branding with true best intentions.

And that’s it! Truthfully, building a solid brand requires one ingredient above all others: time. That crucial ingredient is so much more powerful, however, when you start out with a solid marketing approach upfront. So don’t wait to get going … begin today!