According to Coddington (1993) the concern about environmental safety has been integrated into the purchasing behaviour by consumers in the modern markets. Today consumers choose products and/or avoid other products depending on the impact of the products on the environment. Coddington (1993) opined that consumers are ready to pay premium prices for products which are less harmful to the environment. In addition, consumers have the desire to buy products which do not have a negative impact on the environment. Managers of companies have incorporated strategic marketing into their activities to ensure they comply with environmental safety standards about the products they offer to the market (McDougall, 1993). In this paper I will discuss environmental marketing as a critical factor in strategic marketing. Bottlenecks of using environmental marketing in strategic marketing will also be discussed and solutions to these problems will be developed.
Environmental marketing is a set of activities involved in marketing commodities which promote environmental safety. These activities include modifying products, changing the processes of production, changing the packaging system and modification of advertisements with the overall goal of maintaining environmentally safety (Green Markets International, 2008). Environmental marketing has been in existence for the last three decades and the need for a clean marketing environment continues to become a basic need in the business arena.
Pollution control programs have been introduced to curb negative impacts that organizations have on the environment. Greenhouse gas control measures have been emphasised by many governments, lobby groups, environmentalists as well as other interested stakeholders. Rules have been developed and implemented to protect the environment from marketing activities in the global scene. Environmental marketing has been said to promote economic efficiency because the environment is the source of all raw materials used in manufacturing market products (Green Markets International, 2008).
The emphasis on reducing greenhouse gases has intensified in the modern days and projects have been started to control the marketing activities of many companies to ensure they adhere to the environmental guidelines developed. The Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is an example of a project established to promote trade between third world countries and developed countries. This project was developed to provide capital to the environmental development activities. To promote reduction of greenhouse gases effect, countries participating in international trade have been required to comply with some standards (Green Markets International, 2008).
Governments have put in place legal systems to protect the environment from harmful marketing activities. Companies are required to adhere to specific environmental standards. For example, the packaging materials used by marketers have been required to be decomposable. Environmental compliance guidelines have been put in place concerning labels, adverts, promotion materials as well as any other form of marketing. Marketers have been cautioned against false claims about their marketing activities. It is a requirement that all environmental attributes of a product being marketing should be genuine (Federal Trade Commission, 2008).
Over the years some companies have been unethical about their marketing claims and this has caused alarm to consumers in the international market. This is done when companies change their marketing claims but fail to modify their products. Consumers have boycotted products from such companies when this behaviour is known. In an industry, negative publicity developed by one company many have adverse effects on other companies and this can affect the entire industry leading to poor sales. This heinous behaviour by some firms has tainted the green marketing efforts by other companies. It also discourages companies which are not currently using green marketing from starting these programs. Consumers have become very sensitive about environmental marketing claims of bad corporate behaviour causing consumer cynicism (Lawrence, 1991).
The number of companies which have introduced green products into the market is increasing today. Marketing strategies about exercising environmental marketing include product reposition with no change on the composition of products and modification of products already in the market to make them environmental friendly. Other companies carry out modification on the corporate culture to make sure that environmental aspects are incorporated into the production processes. New companies are being formed to target environmental products satisfy the needs of green consumers (McDaniel and Rylander, 1993).
Integrating marketing mix with environmental safety standards has been a major challenge to organization. Consumers have become aware about the environmental requirements that marketers should adhere to. This has required marketers to focus more of the quality of products they offer in the market. Mendleson and Polonsky (1995) identified three problems that consumers have when attempting to use environmental marketing: “a lack of credibility, consumer cynicism and consumer confusion over claims” (p.1). To overcome these problems companies manufacturing consumer goods should liaise with environmental groups (Mendleson and Polonsky 1995).
Marketing mix is a combination of strategies aimed at adjusting the price, product, place and promotion aspects associated with a product. It is good for marketing managers to develop good marketing mix combinations which promote the environmental safety of the products they market. The prices of products offered in the market should correspond with the environmental safety standards incorporated in the products. The promotional strategies should aim at creating awareness about environmental safety that the company has used in manufacturing products (Mendleson and Polonsky 1995).
Bottlenecks of using environmental marketing in strategic marketing
As identified above, there are three problems facing environmental marketing: bad credibility, consumer cynicism as well as buyers being confused about the environmental marketing. Poor credibility about environmental marketing has been caused by bad behaviour by some firms in the past. It is difficult to develop trust with firms or industries have been involved in unethical environmental marketing in the past. Integrating corporate culture into the marketing activities of a company is a challenging task. Some firms have adhered to environmental safety standards but they fail to create awareness to the consumers. Being environmentally ethical requires manufacturing products which are not harmful to the environment in a clean environment. Consumer credibility is important in creating demand for products in the market but once the image of a firm or industry becomes tainted, it is difficult to recover the trust of consumers (Mendleson and Polonsky, 1995).
Consumers are confused about the claims being made by marketers about the environmental standards for products offered in the market. Manufactures are confusing the consumers about the environmental products offered in the market. The accuracy of these claims cannot be estimated by consumers because they follow the adverts the information provided to them by marketers. There are many sources of information aimed at persuading the consumer to purchase products in the market. The information is so diversified such that the consumer is confused about which specific information to use. This confusion is found in the environmental marketing arena whereby many firms come up with different marketing strategies to attract more consumers. For example, there are many claims about recyclable products in the market (Mendleson and Polonsky 1995).
All marketers aim at persuading the consumer to purchase their product based on the diversified claims and this ends up confusing the consumer about the best claim to follow in their marketing activities. The government has intervened to reduce confusion about the claims by setting guidelines about environmental marketing. However, the success of these guidelines in making consumers less confused has been questioned by many stakeholders in marketing (Mendleson and Polonsky, 1995).
Need to develop strategies for environmental marketing
Strategies are required to overcome the bottlenecks mentioned above for successful environmental marketing. Forming alliances with environmental groups is one of the strategies that can be developed to solve these problems. According to Jeannet and Hennessey (1992) strategic alliances are partnerships made to create a pool of resources and skills for the mutual benefits of all partners. Through strategic alliances marketers will collaborate with environmental groups to achieve gaols which will benefits stakeholders in both areas.
Strategic alliances can be short term or long term depending on the agreement of the partners. An example of strategic alliances was experienced when Bonjour Jeans Inc came up with a strategy of planting trees for every item sold in the market (Marketing News, 1990). Through these alliances firms maintain corporate social responsibility while they promote the activities of environmental groups. This strategy improves the image of the company and consumers develop loyalty with the products sold by the firm (Mendleson and Polonsky, 1995).
Product is another strategy adopted by marketers to maintain a good profile of environmental safety. As such the environmental groups approve products from particular firms and a legal contract is made to avoid deviation from the provisions of the contract. Product endorsement provides the consumers with the courage that they are genuine and that they are not environmentally harmful. Introducing products into the market by having a formal attachment to an environmental group creates consumer confidence and improves the image of the company (Mendleson and Polonsky, 1995).
Corporate sponsorships can be used as strategies to promote environmental safety and reduce consumer cynicism and confusion. Firms use corporate sponsorships supporting environmental activities financially or in kind. It is a philanthropic venture where the firm aims at promoting the image of its products to consumers. Firms carry out corporate sponsorship by involving directly in certain environmental activities, raising funds for some environmental activities or working in a clean environment. These activities promote the corporate image of a firm and reduce the negative perception that consumers have about the products in the market (Mendleson and Polonsky, 1995). However, there are costs associated with corporate sponsorship and firms should be prepared to fund these activities. The cost of funding corporate sponsorship should not exceed the benefits accrued because this would lead to a loss.
Firms may obtain licences from environmental groups to show the how genuine their products are. Environmental groups provide a seal and firms use these seals to brand their products. Consumers develop a positive perception about the products of the firm because they are assured of their safety. The firm accrues benefits by improving the sales after consumers develop confidence with the products. Other products offered by the firm are readily acceptable even if they may not posses the license because consumers have already developed trust with the products of the company. However, this method is risky because the firm can breach the standards of the products branded by the environmental groups (Smith and Alcorn, 1991).
Market opportunities are available for organization with better strategies of promoting environmental marketing. Forming strategic alliances is strength in improving the image of a company as well as promoting their brands. Forming strategic alliances requires the firms to be very careful because some groups have a negative public image and creating partnerships with them can create more harm than good. A good analysis about the particular environmental group a firm wishes to collaborate with should be done (Smith and Alcorn, 1991).
Environmental marketing is being used as a strategic tool to promote the image of firms and improve the market position of products manufactured by firms in the market. To reduce consumer cynicism there is need to make the claims credible the marketing behaviour of some firms. Adopting a corporate culture that encourages environmental marketing is an important step towards improving the bad image consumers have towards some industries. However, it may become challenging to firms which are responsible to improve the negative image that environmental marketing has gained in the eyes of global consumers. Forming strategic alliances with environmental groups is important in improving the image of firms as well as promoting environmental marketing about the products sold by the firm. There is need for marketing managers to come up with better policies of marketing their products to ensure they adhere to environmental standards.
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