How do you like your coffee?

Last week I was at Freshness Burger, a Japanese fast food chain. Embossed on the stirrer given with my coffee were these words:

Use the stairs instead of the elevator

And I wondered about the possible connection between stirring my coffee and using the stairs? But of course – it was one of the most subtlest Green Marketing messages I’d come across.

It silently shouted – We care. I liked its coffee and really loved its delicious fresh, organic burger. The green message got embedded in my subconscious even though it may not have been a part of a green strategy by the company.

Also read Was Coca Cola in white can a good Sustainable Marketing strategy?

In contrast is Starbucks, where I find myself invariably savouring its wholewheat snacks. But here’s a confession – as much as I adore Starbucks as a company because of its leading efforts in sustainable C.A.F.E practices, I just don’t like most of its fatteing coffee lattes. My wife drove home the point resonating the same feelings while sitting at a local cafe, “It’s much more satisfying to have a half cup of coffee with a strong aroma and a lingering aftertaste than a milky Starbucks latte and have difficulty downing it.”

On entering Starbucks, the ‘Green Message’ screams from all sides: paper napkins, glass sleeves, pamphlets supporting farmers, paraphernalia et all.

What good does this green marketing efforts by companies’ amount to if the prime product doesn’t deliver?

Tully’s Coffee is high on my list taste-wise.  The company’s sustainability efforts in the area of ethical sourcing and coffee growing practices may not be on par with Starbucks, but they have a branded message of care that keeps me coming back. It says – We do care, not in an all out aggressive fashion but a kind of subtle chanting.

And that’s all a consumer wants. In the end, consumers reward companies with good products and don’t care very much about what goes on behind the scenes. Green or sustainable practices might be evident throughout the company for those of us who care, but…

…the typical consumer doesn’t go to company websites or read sustainability reports

The typical consumer wants an ideal mix of quality, performance and price in a product which may not necessarily have green characteristics.

Companies believe that green marketing will deliver trust and loyalty – but those are coveted holy grails that don’t come by through green values alone.

Green or sustainable values don’t sell by themselves, they need to be manifested in the final product – if an organically grown shade coffee supports farmers but doesn’t taste good, or if a face wash that helps communities but doesn’t do much to the face, or if an organic clothing line is costly and out of synch of the current fashion trends – then there’s a disconnect between the values and product.

Green marketing is a differentiating strategy which can be an effective tool to the already converted. But for the masses, green messages are extra work to read through.

Agreed – taste of a coffee is a personal choice but a store that will let me enjoy my latte without the guilt is the one I want to frequent.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts below.

(Originally published in Triple Pundit: Green marketing efforts can’t make bad coffee taste good)

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