The Business Case for Green

Submitted by: Joan MacKenzie 01/08/2012

As the director of publishing operations for Consumer Reports magazine, Meta Brophy has witnessed firsthand the impact of eco-friendly marketing on a business’s bottom line.

December 2011

In recent years, Brophy and her colleagues have worked diligently to incorporate green principles into the publication’s marketing practices. For instance, they have become more conscientious about paper stock, mailing frequency, envelopes and nearly every other element of the magazine’s mail advertising. The payoff, she says, has been tremendous.

“We have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last six-plus years by implementing new, and changing existing, programs,” says Brophy. “We’ve switched to lighter weight papers. We produce more open-window envelopes, thereby eliminating the need for window patch material — which can save several dollars per thousand on the price. And we’re always working to maximize delivery efficiencies.”

 Meanwhile, mail remains central to the magazine’s growth. Brophy says direct mail continues to be the largest source of new customer acquisitions for Consumer Reports, which currently boasts nearly 4 million print subscribers plus more than 3 million online subscribers. Says Brophy: “Incorporating green-friendly marketing practices helps us align our business practices with our mission, which is to serve the consumer interest.”

As Consumer Reports has proven, today’s environmentally conscious marketing isn’t just some sort of PR no-brainer. More than simply burnishing a company’s public image or giving off some “feel-good” vibe, effective eco-friendly marketing practices can also enhance a CMOs bottom line.Whether in the form of deflated supply costs, more efficient mailings or stronger branding, the incorporation of earth-friendly marketing creates payoffs for companies with both sizable and diverse target audiences. “Tree-hugging,” it would seem, is not only beneficial to the trees.

Such efforts reflect a renewed green push among marketers, a push that seems to gain more steam with each passing year as more brands hasten to get in step with consumers’ increasing wariness over our growing carbon footprint. As a result, many CMOs and their staffs are pushing ever harder to promote methods to bring their marketing in line with their brands’ stated desires to be environmentally responsible.

As Brophy and others are fast learning, there is indeed a business case for going green.

 Keeping it clean

When Jerry Cerasale considers the impact of environmentally unsound marketing practices, he doesn’t merely see wasted paper or squandered ink. He doesn’t see only outdated lists or supply-chain breakdowns.

He also sees money — lots of it — being needlessly dumped out of a window.

As a result, Cerasale, the senior vice president of government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), has spent the past few years urging businesses to consider adopting more eco-friendly marketing practices — if for no other reason than to save themselves some cash.

“Our first measurable goal was to get people to create clean lists, to reduce undeliverable mail,” says Cerasale. “As a marketer, you’re spending money to get the package out. When it comes back, you’re essentially ‘double-mailing.’”

By heightening marketers’ awareness of how waste impacts profits, the DMA has helped stem undeliverable mail, duplicate mailings and other drags on marketing budgets. A reported 930 million such pieces were prevented from being delivered in 2010, according to the DMA.

Fine-tuning the frequency

At New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colo., marketers are striving to implement their own set of eco-friendly marketing principles and initiatives. The company says its eco-friendly marketing goals are only fitting given the company’s emphasis on healthy living.

Brand manager Scott Sherpe says the company has sought to save on money by varying its mailing frequency and experimenting with the volume sizes of certain mailings. New Hope also believes that database hygiene is key to successful green marketing.

Says Sherpe: “Our company does regular list management while simultaneously utilizing our print vendors and mail houses to moderate the amount of physical mail pieces we send to any one address. This saves paper and saves us money on printing and postage.”

Sherpe says he also emphasizes creativity and targeting in marketing, out of the belief that quality mail pieces should make the original recipient want to share them with other potential respondents. “Some companies send marketing pieces to every employee at one address,” Sherpe says. “We believe you should be targeting the right person with the right message.” In those circumstances, he says, the most effective mail pieces tend to be passed along or wind up posted on bulletin boards.

To further aid New Hope’s eco-friendly marketing push, Sherpe says, direct marketing production company Ballantine Corp. helped the company reconfigure some of its marketing pieces, suggesting optimal page and trim sizes to minimize waste.

Branding benefits

Along with the cost savings and boosts to profits, another key benefit from green marketing is the boost that eco-friendly campaigns can provide a company’s image, says Ryan Coté, who handles Ballantine’s marketing.

“It makes you look like a responsible company,” says Coté. “People, overall, are more conscious about the environment and how important it is to recycle.”

To further encourage brand recognition, Cerasale of the DMA says the organization began distributing awards for green-friendly mailings. In October, Consumer Reports won the 2011 DMA International ECHO Green Marketing Award.

“The team of people who worked on the winter campaign took great care to make as many environmentally preferable and meaningful choices as possible,” says Brophy. “The process of engaging the entire group, of executing our green strategy and documenting our initiatives, and of synthesizing our collective information into a narrative for the entry form has been an entirely rewarding experience.”

New Hope has also won recognition for its green marketing. In 2010 and 2011 the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) awarded its Natural Products Expo West trade show first place for producing a “Green Collateral Printed Piece” for a show of its size. Says Sherpe, “We are constantly looking to embody sustainability in all aspects of our marketing mix.” d