Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Hypocrisy of Marketing

I've been working on preparing a post about our switch to the more 'eco-friendly' corn starch bio-degradable loose fill for order packaging. Having switched over to them over a month ago, I'm in no hurry though. I wanted enough of you to start getting orders packaged with them so that when I do post about it, you'll be able to give us some reliable feedback about their effectiveness. See, I'm mostly concerned with this material's usefulness as a package protection, with the environmental aspects being a necessary, but secondary perk.

Anyway, this got me to thinking. We do a lot of stuff to help protect the environment in the course of our business. We recycle all of our cardboard and chipboard waste (we have a special dumpster for it), we recycle our paper waste, we use a very efficient natural gas based HVAC system (we paid extra for the highest efficiency rating), we use recycled materials whenever possible in our order processing and packaging processes (and we try to use vendors that do the same) - hell, we even keep the thermostats set low in the winter and bundle up, and turn the light off in parts of the warehouse we are not using during certain parts of the day to save energy. Jamie and I commute back and forth to the office (most of our driving) in a fuel efficient little Kia Soul. The Bimmer mostly stays parked at home. Lots of other little things.

We do this stuff out of a simple common sense approach that any responsible company should take in their attitude toward environmental concerns. But it has never really occurred to me to make a big deal about it as some sort of 'marketing point' to promote our company - like printing that we do it on our boxes. Making folks aware of what you are doing is good, but making it a point of contention in your marketing propaganda, as if to say - "see, my company is better than yours because we recycle" - well, seems a bit adolescent to me. I really don't think smart people can be bought off by those sorts of concerns - I mean it's 2011 - people should EXPECT companies to do whatever is economically feasible to be environmentally friendly. Why wouldn't we. Anything else would just be irresponsible.

So it also occurs to me that in this digital age, when you already consume plenty of electricity to spin the hard drives that make your digital catalog/online store available 24/7, don't you think it's a little hypocritical to sell people on what a green company you are, but still mail out tens of thousands of tree killing paper product catalogs every quarter? Can you imagine the extra fossil fuel burned by the delivery trucks as they carry thousands of pounds of these paper catalogs? And the energy and resources consumed in making the paper for and printing those catalogs? Even if you use recycled materials, you know the endgame of these is to just become landfill fodder after their usefulness is over.

Frankly, while I think they are completely unnecessary for an online e-tailer, if you feel like having a printed catalog is an essential part of your online business, so be it. You gotta do what you gotta do. But if you do, don't turn around and start making a marketing pitch about how environmentally friendly your company is. If you don't mind, please sell stupid somewhere else.


SFF said...

Great, thoughtful post. Amen Robert.

Like the photo in your post - it's like people, can we cut through the bulls*!*@.

Well said.

Chris Beveridge said...

Don't forget to lambast funimation for promoting green as well as heavily as they do while still printing advertising pamphlets in their thousands and thousands of dvd/bd releases every year. And their retailer print catalogs.

And don't advertise in magazines either because they're printed on dead trees.

Robert said...

I think Funi found out with their Viridian lines that many Anime fans were not willing to pay for flimsy 'green friendly' paper packaging as opposed sturdy plastic cases.

And since Chris makes a living creating content that sells online advertising, we'll forgive him his 'magazine' comment. :-)

Ben Applegate said...

Fuel efficient cars? Good. Thermostat adjusting? Good. Recycling paper? Really bad for the environment, actually. Bad for almost everyone, counterintuitive as that may sound.