Will the recession kill green marketing?

June 6, 2009 at 1:18 am 1 comment

George Will thinks so. Moreover, he thinks green marketing should be relatively easy to kill because its benefits are purely psychological. In this breathtakingly narcissistic century, people pay extra to make themselves feel better rather than to help solve actual social, or in this case, environmental problems. In his article in the Washington Times, Will cites a compelling argument from Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellengerger of the New Republic:

Green consumption became “positional consumption” that identified the consumer as a member of a moral and intellectual elite. A 2007 survey found that 57 percent of Prius purchasers said they bought their car because “it makes a statement about me.” Honda, alert to the bull market in status effects, reshaped its 2009 Insight hybrid to look like a Prius.
Nordhaus and Shellenberger note the telling “insignificance,” as environmental measures, of planting gardens or using fluorescent bulbs. Their significance is therapeutic, but not for the planet. They make people feel better:
“After all, we can’t escape the fact that we depend on an infrastructure — roads, buildings, sewage systems, power plants, electrical grids, etc. — that requires huge quantities of fossil fuels. But the ecological irrelevance of these practices was beside the point.”
A Hummer may indeed have a smaller lifetime carbon footprint than a Prius–and there is evidence that is does given the amount of fossil fuel burned in mining the metals for the Prius’s battery then shipping them back and forth across the sea several times as part of the manufacturing process, to say nothing of the fact that the hybrid engine’s life span will probably be roughly half  that of a standard internal combustion engine–but we don’t buy Hummers because they symbolize the wrong thing in the imagination of our friends. Unfortunately, in this particular marketing example, the truth won’t set you free. It will bankrupt you.
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Deep thoughts from an old master, as the advertising industry prepares to descend on Cannes. Wordnik – A handy online tool for people who care about English

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. christopher gyorgy  |  June 9, 2009 at 12:55 am

    I always appreciate it when someone peels back the veneer of the PC elite and exposes them for what they are, poseurs.

    this post was a breath of fresh air. which, apparently, is lot more than we can say for hybrid vehicles.

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