The products were soon withdrawn from the market as they were a complete failure as customers found it inconvenient to have to constantly recharge the electric vehicles given the existence of such a few recharging locations. Also, the consumers were not ready to change their driving habits so drastically and in such a short period of time.
Green marketing myopia can also appear when green products are not able to reflect credible environmental benefits. One such example is Mobil's Hefty photodegradable plastic trash bag. These products claimed to be degradable, however, not in every circumstance, but only when exposed to sun, wind and rain and because most of the times garbage bags are not exposed to such elements, the degradation was virtually impossible. Mobil was sued by seven state attorneys for deceptive advertising and consumer fraud and had to remove the photodegradable note from its products.
According to Ottman et.al. (2006), companies have avoided green marketing myopia by following "The Three Cs" principles - consumer value positioning, calibration of consumer knowledge and credibility of product claims.
Consumer value positioning
Successful green products display non-green consumer value, with benefits, such as: efficiency and cost effectiveness; health and safety; performance; symbolism and status and convenience (Ottman et.al., 2006).
The efficiency and cost effectiveness refer to cost/resource effectiveness. One example of such a benefit is Procter&Gamble's Tide Coldwater. The product is supposed to clean clothes efficiently with cold water. Considering that water heating during washing represents roughly 80% of the energy necessary in the washing process, the detergent saves energy.
The health and safety benefit refers to the reduced exposure to toxic agents, especially for sensitive consumers such as children and pregnant women. Organic food enters this category.
Symbolism and status stands for the socially related benefits as perceived by the consumers. Toyota Prius is a good example that stands for "chic green." Many celebrities, such as Cameron Diaz and Harrison Ford are driving this model because it is green and it corresponds to their values.
Green products are sometimes more convenient than other products. For instance Phillips' compact fluorescent bulb has to be changed with less frequency than a normal bulb. The product is also energy-efficient, which makes it both environmental-friendly and convenient. One such example from the automobile world is the free parking and solo-occupant access to HOV lanes given to hybrid vehicles in some states. Consequently, many customers were motivated to buy hybrid cars to beneficiate from it.
Calibration of consumer knowledge
Successful green product strategies involve a calibration of consumer knowledge for this latter to recognize the benefits incorporated in these products. In a way, such marketing campaigns are both increasing awareness of green products benefits and educating the consumer.
For instance, the Energy Star initially adopted the "EPA Pollution Preventer" slogan, which was joined by a simple logo that wasn't much focused on the ecological symbolism. Later on, the company changed both the slogan and logo. The slogan was more explicit regarding the product's ecological benefit and sounded as "Saving the Earth. Saving your Money." The logo had a similar "upgrade" as below:
Credibility of product claims
Credibility is one of the fundaments of green marketing. Green marketing have to deliver the promised benefits, both environment and non-environment-related. In some instances, consumers have no way to check whether green promises are kept or not by companies, but these latter ones can be penalized by entities with a higher power. Thus, in the case of Splends's "made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar," the company's products were questioned by the Sugar Association and Generation Green, despite being approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The sugar association claimed that the product was "unrecognizable as sugar" (Generation Green, 2005).
Third party endorsement and eco-certificates are solutions to deal with circumspect customers. However, a company has to make sure that the third party enjoys a good reputation. One other way to deal with high customer skepticism is via word-of-mouth solutions and/or internet. It is said that a satisfied customer tells about its experience to one more person, whereas a dissatisfied one to five more. Thus, firms have to start taking under consideration the informal publicity, which is nowadays in the shape of internet blogs or discussion forums.
Green marketing mistakes
It's not easy being green," by Kermit the frog is a famous line that describes with accuracy the green marketing attempts in any industry. Automobile industry is one of the most challenging of all industries because the fuel that powers the vast majority of the current car park is one of the major sources of carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, cars are perceived as one of the biggest source of pollution. Greening a company's products and policies can turn into a marketing fiasco for those that are trying to use the green label to deceive the customer.
Ford Motor has been the target of many environmentalists for advertising a greener image, which wasn't necessarily supported by its actions. The company built the largest living roofs on top of one of its factories. The roof was basically made of plants and was said to improve energy consumption efficiency. So Ford tried to advertise the roof to green its image, but the environmentalists' reaction was acid, as the company is still generating, either directly or indirectly a lot of pollution.
Companies such as Nike - one of the world's largest buyers of organic cotton or MacDonald's - one of the world's largest buyers of recycled materials, chose not to advertise their green actions. One of the explanations came from Joel Makower, founder of GreenBiz.com: "How do you talk about the [environmental] things you're doing when you're not a perfect company?." Farah (2005) suggested the following to avoid green marketing mistakes:
Keep it real
By keeping it real, it is suggested that greening should address the company's central environment responsibility. Ford failed to convince the consumers and environmentalists of its greening attempt because this one wasn't dealing with its central products (vehicles) as the quantity of hybrids was insignificant. Wal-Mart commitment to preserve wild life was also a failure, because the giant retailer is one of the primary sources of unplanned growth.
A successful example of realistic greening was Toyota's hybrid synergy drive campaign: "Less gas in. Less gasses out." This slogan was chosen in favor of "Drive green, breathe blue" as the latter would have been connected to the company's image, rather than a specific product-related claim.
Clean up from top down
Large companies with unstable and not necessarily positive green experiences can also commit to a long-term green strategy. GE is one such large company that engaged in a greening campaign. Ecomagination, the campaign, currently includes 17 products from water treatment technologies to aircraft and it had top managerial support even though many voices called it a risky attempt.
Transparency doesn't imply only what you communicate, but also how you communicate it. Thus, before labeling a product or an action as green, a firm has to think what exactly green means and what are the implications of such a labeling on its image.
Some companies, such as MacDonald's prefer to keep a low profile regarding its environmental actions by publishing a report with its greening progress. Other companies, such as GE resort to the services of third parties to measure the green extent of their products/activities and only those that are certified by the latter as green as considered as such by the company.
Toyota, which is among the most respectable green companies declared that its legal department doesn't allow the word "green," which is why the "drive green, breathe blue" wasn't adopted as a slogan.
The key to succeed in a strategy greening is to have patience, modesty and own up to the ecological errors. Everybody makes mistakes and customers and environmentalists are willing to let them go easier if companies were honest and humble.
Stonyfield campaign attempt was meant to picture Dean Kamen's Segway as an emission-free way of traveling. This involved a hybrid pulling a solar panel that would provide the energy necessary to recharge the car's battery. However, it was discovered that the emissions generated by the hybrid pulling the solar panel attenuated the emission-free effect.
Challenges for the automobile industry - summary
Greening the marketing strategy is not an easy task especially in the automobile industry, which is perceived as one of the most polluting industries in the economy.
Companies have to face different challenges, such as the disconnect between consumer attitudes and behaviors (consumers claim to be concerned by environment issues, but not necessarily willing to change their life style to tackle these issues), greening the company or certain products (some companies are known through their brands, rather than the company name), disclosing environment-related credible information or keeping a low profile to avoid environmentalist criticism, and so on.