2012 DMA ECHO Green Marketing Award Goes to: Vestas

The Green Marketing Award is not about marketing environmental products, services or causes. Rather, it’s about how efficiency and sustainability—and profitability—are incorporated in a successful marketing campaign. This year’s winner was Vestas Wind Systems (Arhaus, Denmark). The business-to-business campaign, targeting large-company executives at 23 Fortune 1000 firms, was remarkable in how it used market research, social media, direct mail and digital media to provide a truly personalized campaign to convince companies to consider wind energy as a power source for their operations.

During the summer, I had an opportunity to serve as a judge on a panel to select the Direct Marketing Association‘s special ECHO Green Marketing Award winner for 2012. That award was presented recently at DMA’s annual conference in Las Vegas, DMA2012.

The Green Marketing Award is not about marketing environmental products, services or causes. Rather, it’s about how efficiency and sustainability—and profitability—are incorporated in a successful marketing campaign. This year’s winner was Vestas Wind Systems (Arhaus, Denmark). The business-to-business campaign, targeting large-company executives at 23 Fortune 1000 firms, was remarkable in how it used market research, social media (InMail via LinkedIn), direct mail (custom Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine wraps) and digital media (EnergyTransparency.com) to provide a truly personalized campaign to convince companies to consider wind energy as a power source for their operations.

Vestas tapped two research firms, Bloomberg and TNS Gallup, to complete two studies. One was a Corporate Renewable Energy Index that reported on corporations’ energy consumption, and the second was a Global Consumer Wind Study, that examined consumer demand for renewable energy. The surveys documented that consumers want products made with wind energy, and that corporations are eager to source more renewable energy.

Working with its agency partner, Vertic Inc. (New York, NY), the campaign targeted 419,000 employees and 300 top executives inside the 23 companies. Audiences were segmented by geography, seniority, work role and industry. Opinion leaders also were targeted. Using InMail, LinkedIn company-specific banner ads and the magazine wraps, traffic was generated to 600 individual URLs associated with EnergyTransparency.com where an executive could inspect energy consumption trends in their company and industry sector, along with customer brand preference information relevant to the company.

Overall, the campaign cost less than $1 million, and generated more than 10,000 site visits with average visit lasting more than 7 minutes on average—with 80 percent of opinion leaders visiting the site, and 30 percent of top executives targeted. InMails achieved at 13.37 percent open rate and 5.78 percent conversion rate. Business sales resulting from the campaign were not disclosed.

The judges welcomed seeing 1:1 communication, effective personalized used of social media, magazine wraps, banner ads, and successful delivery of brand interaction among C-suite executives—always a tough challenge. On the sustainability front, judges welcomed use of existing communications channels—magazines already subscribed to, social media networks where professional profiles already are present—to provide messaging, using little in the way of new production materials to convey relevant information. Overall, the campaign focused on energy use, so what better way to reach executives efficiently.

Global, integrated print & digital, b-to-b … congratulations to Vestas Wind Systems and Vertic!

Resources:
This Year’s DMA International ECHO Green Marketing Award Winner (see page 14):
http://dma.seqora.com/prod/Desktop/page.aspx?id=25&mode=SP&name=EchoAwards2012

‘Go Green, Go Paperless?’ FTC Issues Green Guides—and Lack of Substantiation Gets Targeted

Marketers who have been counting the days, months, even years, for the FTC to finalize its latest version of the “Green Guides” for making environmental marketing claims must wait no more. The revised guides are 36 pages slim and break new ground in six areas: 1) certifications and seals of approval, 2) carbon offsets, 3) “free-of” claims, 4) “non-toxic” claims, 5) “made with renewable energy” claims, and 6) “made with renewable materials” claims. The Guides also clarify previous guidance on terms such as “compostable.”

Marketers who have been counting the days, months, even years, for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to finalize its latest version of the “Green Guides” (formally, Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims) for making environmental marketing claims must wait no more. (The Guides were established in 1992, and they most recently were updated in 1998.)

The revised guides are 36 pages slim: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2012/10/greenguides.pdf

Perhaps it was the 5,000 public comments—340 of them unique—that the FTC received. Perhaps it was the upcoming Election and the pressure building to put the claims guidance in the public domain, particularly since the public comment period closed nearly two years ago. Needless to say, the Guides are useful in that they provide both timely counsel and marketplace examples on many terms and claims, such as “recycled content,” “recyclable” and “degradable.”

The newest version of the Guides breaks new ground in six areas: 1) certifications and seals of approval, 2) carbon offsets, 3) “free-of” claims, 4) “non-toxic” claims, 5) “made with renewable energy” claims, and 6) “made with renewable materials” claims. The Guides also clarify previous guidance on terms such as “compostable,” “ozone,” “recyclable,” “recycled content,” and source reduction claims, as well as general environmental friendliness claims.

Two noteworthy items are:

  • Any unqualified claims of degradation must have it that the labeled product or packaging would degrade were it to be placed in a landfill in one year’s time—no more.
  • Any unqualified claims of environmentally friendliness or eco-friendliness are not encouraged—since very few products can meet consumer expectations in all aspects of their environmental impact. However, a qualified comment that focuses consumers on the specific advertised benefit is welcomed.

One can hope that the latter might serve to halt banks, utilities and others that make “go green, go paperless” claims that adorn so many monthly mailed statements, without any type of substantiation offered behind such questionable messaging. It would have been nice to see a clear example in the Guides regarding this specific area, given this claim’s wide use, and given the energy consumed by data centers, the growing problem of electronic waste, the rise of sustainable forestry and the predominance of responsible forest management practices in North America and Europe. Still, the FTC was clear in its direction regarding such general claims:

“Unqualified general environmental benefit claims are difficult to interpret and likely convey a wide range of meanings. In many cases, such claims likely convey that the product, package, or service has specific and far-reaching environmental benefits and may convey that the item or service has no negative environmental impact. Because it is highly unlikely that marketers can substantiate all reasonable interpretations of these claims, marketers should not make unqualified general environmental benefit claims.”

In the same light, I’m not making the claim that paper is preferable to digital. Let’s be honest: most marketers are multichannel today. Most direct mail is data-driven, and is also dependent on data centers. And a life cycle analysis of a direct mail piece and a comparable digital message has not yet been achieved, head to head, as far as I know. Not that that matters. What does matter is that marketers who make any environmental claims need to have substantiation of such claims available to consumers to inspect.

Marketers who want to read up on the new Green Guides in brief may do so here, in this handy summary the FTC has created: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2012/10/greenguidessummary.pdf

Previous commentary on “Go Green, Go Digital” from the Marketing Sustainability blog is offered here: http://targetmarketing.adweek.com/blog/making-green-claim-not-waiting-ftc-green-guides

Additionally, here’s reporting on of the revised Guides as they apply to the use of carbon offset claims: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/10/02/ftcs-revised-green-guides-target-carbon-offset-claims/

I welcome hearing about your observations from the newly revised Guides.