Greenwashing and the cynicism meter

During a recent browse through London Drugs, I spotted this interesting packaging for a laundry detergent (please excuse the quality of my cell phone’s photography).

What caught my eye was the down-to-earth packaging. There were no ‘shout-out-loud’ colours with a gloss finish, just a drab, ‘whole wheat’ cardboard look. A closer examination of the packaging made me realise what was going on. Here’s what I perceived in the first few moments of noticing the bottles:

  • The green leaf and oddly placed asterisk/sun icon made me want to find and read some kind of disclaimer, in other words, my cynicism meter started twitching.
  • The packaging is obviously made from, or supposed to resemble, recycled cardboard. Embossed in the indentation were the barely-discernible words ‘eco logic’.
  • The word ‘Natural’ on the label  made me think ‘Enviro-friendly or greenwashing?’.

My perceptions coalesced into this assessment:

  • The Seventh Generation brand is all about natural, environmentally friendly cleaning products and recycled packaging.

Interest piqued, I’m off to the website for more info.

A quick search on Bing (Google’s new privacy infractions have caused me to switch search engines) brought up this home page:

Nicely laid out, clean and crisp as you expect your shirts would be after using a 4x natural detergent. I browsed the website quickly to get a feel for what was going on, and my cynicism meter dropped to zero. These guys appear to be the real deal.

So why did I doubt them?

Well, there has been a lot of greenwashing going on. Greenwashing is the practice of ‘pretending’ to be environmentally friendly. It’s just plain old bad marketing. So when I see someone claiming to be natural, eco-friendly, and green, I go looking to make sure they’re walking the talk. And you can bet your last penny many other consumers do the same. If I believe the company is exaggerating or lying to me, I won’t go near its products.

Why would I? They’re liars. And my doubt can only be eliminated by providing the right information – the information that builds my trust.

So, what eliminated my scepticism?

The company’s website provides so much information, it’s scary. BUT, they do it using short videos. And where they use text, it’s in relatively small, easily understood bites. It all speaks with a consistent theme, in a coherent manner to support the brand concept.

Look at the little yellow box in the bottom right corner of the website home page. It says:

“We have saved 489,645 trees or 1,509,383 barrels of petroleum. Learn how.”

In short, they make it easy to see the proof that they walk the talk. The brand promise is delivered – no greenwashing, no need for caution. So now, every time I see the Seventh Generation brand, I trust it.

And trust is one thing your brand and marketing communications should always build.

(Not sure about the Lorax promo though!)