Green Advertising is the new black. In 2011, it was estimated that 82% of companies planned on increasing their spending on green marketing (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, 69). Meanwhile, social media has become a mainstream staple. Twitter is so hot that it has over 500 million registered users (Jin & Phua, 2014, 183). So, with green advertising continuing to be on the rise, and social media reigning as queen of consumer hangouts, it is only natural that advertisers would invest in green marketing on social media. Indeed, of the companies investing in sustainable advertising, 74% were planning on implementing their plans on the Internet (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, 69).
Of course, as life—and especially life in advertising—goes, just because something seems like a good idea does not make it one. Turns out, consumers prefer their green advertising in traditional forms, such as in a magazine…made out of paper…that is made out of trees… (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, 69). The reason for this is really that we, as consumers, talk a big game about caring for the environment but, “consumers are reluctant to participate in sustainable behaviors.” (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, p. 70 ). What we do like to do is look like we care about the environment. Researchers believe that for that reason, we only respond well to green advertising when other people can potentially see us caring about green advertising (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, p. 70). So, we like it in our magazines that we read on the bus, el, or in waiting rooms, and on the labels of our groceries in our shopping cart, but not on our cell phone and computer screens.
So what are advertisers to do? In their 2012 research article, Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle pick apart all the factors advertisers need to consider when trying to utilize environmental buzzwords online. First, they discovered that people responded much more positively to light advertising, while ads that make high-effort claims made people feel discomfort (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, p. 70). Also, they discovered that peoples’ motivations for liking green advertising had different outcomes on different social networks. On Facebook, people seemed to feel a sense of responsibility towards the environment, and advertisements for green transportation that tapped into that sense of responsibility were successful. Meanwhile on Twitter, people were annoyed by ads suggesting they take alternative transportation, but did feel they had a responsibility to buy organic (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, p. 80). They also discovered that people in more collectivist cultures, such as South Korea, were more likely to actually engage in sustainable behavior (Minton, Lee, Orth, Kim & Kahle, 2012, p. 80).
Basically, green advertising has a chance on social media—if it’s subtle and customized by network, sustainable behavior type, and country. Hopefully it works, because planet earth will always be en vogue.
Minton, Elizabeth, Lee, Christopher, Orth, Ulrich, Kim, Chung-Hyun, & Kahle, Lynn. (2013). Sustainable Marketing and Social Media: A Cross-Country Analysis of Motives for Sustainable Behaviors. Journal of Advertising, 41(4), 69-84).
Jin, Seung-A Annie & Phua, Joe. (2014). Following Celebrities’ Tweets About Brands: The Impact of Twitter-Based Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Consumers’ Source Credibility Perception, Buying Intention, and Social Identification with Celebrities. Journal of Advertising, 43(2) 181-195.