business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reported last week that a new study by Ipsos Reid said that 70 percent of Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” agree with the statement that “green” advertising is just a marketing tactic, with men being slightly more cynical about “green” than women. The same study suggests that 72 percent of Southerners are disbelieving about green marketing, and that 58 percent of Northeast residents feel that way. In addition, 44 percent of those polled said that they would be unwilling to pay more for “green” building materials, even if they would be better for the environment and/or save them money in the long term.

My view: I can only hope that this study is inaccurate, and that Americans are not so foolish about environmental issues. Maybe they just asked the wrong people…?

Still, it certainly suggests that American businesses have to do a better job persuading shoppers about the value of green initiatives, and about their own sincerity in pursuing such programs. ..

One MNB user wrote:

It appears to quite true, just look around you and see all the new vans, SUVs and pickup trucks that will never see the snow or mud. Just fashionable not fuel-efficient. Until people decide to tell carmakers around the world they want better mileage this is what we will have. Green is no different. People in the USA want it cheap and their way at all times and in all places.

Read Tom Friedman’s column in yesterday’s New York Times, which mentions how the US has lost its leadership position when it comes to automobiles and emissions standards.

Another MNB user wrote:

While IPSOS is a very good research company and they more than likely weighted their sample to reflect our population correctly...the research could also be interpreted to say:
• 30% don't strongly or somewhat agree that green marketing is a tactic
• 28% of southerners and 42% of northeasterners believe in green marketing
and I'll bet that those numbers are up over previous research...and is just about as expected compared to other research about feelings about social responsibility strategy and healthy food ingredient strategy (re: no HFCS, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, rBST, antibiotics, etc.)

The point is that people are very, very slow to change...but it is happening.

MNB user Cleve Young wrote:

My take on the 'green' marketing survey is a bit different from yours. The first part was not asking people about the value of 'green' but rather the authenticity of corporate marketing of the term. I'm convinced that if you asked people if they would prefer to buy products that were less harmful to the environment an overwhelming majority would say yes. What is driving this negative response is the sense many people have that far too many companies jumping on the 'green' wagon are talking the talk but may not be walking the walk. When a company says their product is 'green' or 'greener than the competition' what does that really mean? How is it 'green'? What exact benefit does it have? Is there legitimate science behind the claim? What the heck does 'green' even mean?

I'm sure the base cause of people like Al Gore pushing for reduced oil consumption and Elizabeth Edwards giving up tangerines is rooted in sincere efforts to encourage others to embrace positive change (no politics in using these two as examples, they are simply prominent ones). Unfortunately too much demagoguery is often involved with doomsday predictions and too little time spent educating people on all of the immense complexities (Al's movie attempt doesn't count). An example is the ongoing debate between long distance organic vs. local grown; which is really better or 'greener'?

People do want to be 'green' when they can and it is economically feasible, what they don't want is deceptions, confusion, and lines of bull from merchants and manufacturers. So try not to be too harsh or skeptical of the American consumer, but do keep pushing the retail industry to help educate and inform customers.

And another MNB user wrote:

Nothing in what was reported indicated that Americans are “foolish about environmental issues”; just that as a marketing tactic it is not appealing and trustworthy. Marketers are “stretching” the green thing and it means different things to different people. Please do not draw such conclusions without seeing the whole study including the questionnaire.

“Foolish” was my editorializing. I never suggested that this was a word that the report used. But I agree – as noted in the story above – that there seems to be ample room for cynicism.

On the subject of sustainability and Wal-Mart’s decision only to sell concentrated laundry detergent, one MNB user actually referred to a subject mentioned above:

By next May the only Liquid Laundry detergent you will be able to buy will be 2X, not only at Wal-Mart...but at any retailer. There is no doubt this will save on water, cardboard, plastic, shipping, etc. But at these great savings will the retail price per load go down? I challenge you to compare the price per load now and compare it to the new 2X product. If the price per load decreases on Tide I'll buy you a bottle of wine (with a cork). Yes it is wonderful for the environment - but what about retail price?

The Ad Age story actually says that manufacturers don't expect the price-per-load to go down. But I’m not sure that’s the point of sustainability.

And, regarding Wal-Mart’s new moves to lower generic prescription drug costs, MNB user Bob Vereen wrote:

Wal-Mart deserves a lot of credit for forcing other pharmacies to lower the prices on generics, so even folks not going to WMT are benefiting.

MNB received a bunch of emails yesterday within minutes of the NY Mets’ season-ending loss. A selection…

One MNB user wrote:

Let me be the first (or maybe not) to say that the pain you must be feeling for the Mets must be terrible. I was born and raised in Chicago, used to walk to Cub games from our apt. building and I was 11 years old in 1969 when we blew it to the Mets, 9 games in one month. It must be heart wrenching, especially with the hometown rivals having made such a comeback to make the playoffs. Imagine how the Padres must feel, now having to go to Denver for a 1 game playoff, after losing 2 straight this weekend. Should be interesting…

I’d like to feel like Padres fans feel.

And MNB user Dustin Stinett wrote:

I know this might have a Clintonesque ring of insincerity, but I really do feel your pain this afternoon. In '95, the Angels had what seemed like an insurmountable double-digit lead in August, only to lose to Seattle in a one-game playoff. It still hurts thinking about it. Same with the loss to Boston in '86. (Though I never blamed Donnie Moore—I still blame Gene Mauch for letting Boston catch their breath during a pitching change that wasn't necessary.)

So, know that while this will never go away, neither will the fact that the Mets are a great team who will continue to contend. They will provide you with more opportunities to celebrate.

Enjoy your football season (I switch to hockey when baseball ends)!

The Mets’ season may have ended…but not baseball. For the next few weeks, I’m rooting for the Cubs to meet the Red Sox in the World Series.
KC's View: