I love all forms of advertising, but my favourite is always a great brand re-launch or re-positioning campaign – a strong brand campaign can always get my juices going. Recently, I was checking out a ranking of the global ‘Top 50 Green Brands’ and was surprised to learn that five of the top 10 were car brands.
Now I know that there are many different rankings put out by various research companies. But the simple, powerful point that really struck me was that when I thought of any of the brand campaigns from these very well known car makers, it was not their green credentials that stood out to me. I could remember their logos, their slogans, their jingles and their colours, and I could even hazard a guess at their brand values, but ‘being green’ was not something I thought of as a characteristic of those car brands.
The study also looked at consumer perceptions of a brand’s green credentials including authenticity, relevance, differentiation, consistency, presence, and understanding of environmental claims. Then Deloitte assessed each brand on its performance across the six pillars of governance, stakeholder engagement, operations, supply chain, transportation and logistics, products and services.
The automotive brands in the Top 50 included almost all the big names: Toyota, Ford, Honda, Nissan, VW, BMW, Hyundai and Kia. The development of electronic vehicles, hybrids, reducing emissions and improving their environmental credentials during the whole manufacturing process were cited as reasons for the car brands’ recognition.
The report says: “What these brands have done right is focusing on efficiency and fuel savings—which are top-of-mind for most consumers—while working to also deliver on performance and style.”
Am I unique in my understanding of these household brands, or is there something that I am missing that means that it is important for someone to go to the effort of creating a ranking of green brands?
And given that green credentials of car brands seems to be a key selling point – then why don’t more of them feature environmental factors in their key brand communications?
The fact is that emotional and rational thinking applies during the car purchase process. People still want to associate with certain car brands because of what they ‘say’ about them. Price – and shopping around for the best price – is also a key factor. While fuel efficiency may be an important factor – things like green dealerships and more environmentally sustainable practices during the manufacturing process will hardly tip the purchase scales, for most.
We all know that sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers, and we also all know that consumers expect their trusted brands to meet a minimum standard on environmental issues, and to be ‘good citizens’ in terms of sustainability. But that is all. Most consumers don't actually rank them: that’s just a neat market research trick. The Interbrand list is probably working better as a list the top green brands can use for PR and marketing purposes than a meaningful insight into some big shift in perceptions and the purchase decision.
So let’s get on with making great advertising that helps support great brands, that engages the key consumer emotions and hot buttons. And enough said about who is the top of the green list this year.
Craig Flanders, co-founder, Spinach*