How to avoid greenwashing in brand, design and packaging

How to avoid greenwashing in brand, design and packaging

While consumers may not seek out sustainable, ethical, and socially responsibly products quite as often as we’d like to think they do, they aren’t stupid when it comes to BS on the subject.

And at a simple touch of a socially linked button, they love creating drama when you overstate your worthiness.

In general, when marketing leads the sustainable story, you are in the wrong place and increasingly risk cynicism or worse.

And when it looks like a profit chase, you are most definitely conflicted and playing a questionable game.

Let’s take a live example of a brand that looks like it might be doing that. The brand commissioned its own research of just 2,000 adults, which instantly taints the quantitative legitimacy of the research, and has been using these research findings to drive distribution across the trade. Their favourite stat (with a perfectly placed CTA of ‘Stock us now’) is that ‘58% of Brits state they are more likely to choose a product that communicates it is using 100% recycled plastic in its packaging, over a brand that doesn’t say this on-pack’.

Here’s the conundrum, is this the dark arts of marketing persuading stockists that this is a scalable insight? Or is it an acceptable campaign that justifies their not insignificant investment in manufacturing equipment to move to 100% recycled plastic?

When packaging uses claims that are part way designed to gain shelf space as the priority, it’s potentially a short-term victory that could lead to a longer-term failure if handled with a marketing sledgehammer.

So when should controlled marketing kick in as part of your planet friendly credentials?

I’m not sure if they ever really should.

A dashingly good-looking Kevin Costner once said, ‘Build it and they will come’. So, invest in PR, Storytelling, Packaging Design. Absolutely. But in marketing centric campaigns, no. Just don’t do it.

Don’t believe me, just look at Brewdog.

Lost Lager Packaging - Drink Brewdog. Plant trees. Awesome.

Build a Lost Forest in Aviemore. Amazing.

Partner with Forest Green Rovers. Big tick.

More effective I think on building credibility than whenever their bigger marketing machine kicks in to amplify other messages within the organisation.

So to get it right, build it from the right start point of making a difference for the right reasons. Don’t bamboozle with stats that aren’t credible or that shoehorn in a sales message.

Invest less money in shouting about it than in exploring better product or packaging alternatives. Use your sustainable packaging to help tell your journey and story instead. Be clever around how you innovate from a sustainable perspective from product idea to earned shelf space.

And don’t rely on the 163.5% of random people who will say yes to any question you ask them out of context when you interrupt their day to help you sell your product.