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Cash-Strapped Marketers Shy Away From Green
By Ken Hein
February 2009

Becoming more eco-friendly quickly became a top priority among many end-users in recent years. However, as budgets tighten, green efforts are now taking more of a backseat, according to the recently released Chief Marketing Officer Survey. The 72 top marketers polled by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business said that because of the economy, their firms now “have a weaker emphasis on marketing that is beneficial for society and that minimizes the impact on the ecological environment.”

Business to consumer product marketers reported the lowest level of emphasis on the environment, while business to consumer service marketers projected the highest.

And some advertising specialty distributors have noticed a tapering off in demand for recycled goods and other eco-friendly promotional products. “I was getting more and more requests. It seems to have leveled off a bit,” says Randy Cox, president of QTI Apparel and Promotions (asi/302785). “Most of our requests are for tote bags, not so many T-shirts, more reusable grocery bags.”

Elaine Blaine, owner of Ad Dimensions (asi/106710), says demand is down for everything, and green items are getting lumped in with the overall marketing pullback, “They are just cutting back, period,” she says. “It’s not just green items. People are putting off purchases and it is trickling down.”

The fact that many green items are more expensive compounds the issue, says Matt Leighton, president of Preferred Design Activewear Inc. (asi/298340). “Price is a big barrier, especially in this economy,” he says. “Green is a trendy word. I’m hearing these corporations are going green but I haven’t seen it. They ask about eco-friendly products, but that’s really all they do.”

Blaine agrees with that assessment of the current green market. “It’s the expense to some extent, but it’s more that using green products hasn’t been mandated yet.”

Other distributors, though, disagree and actually see a growing demand for eco-friendly promotional items. PromoShop (asi/300446), which has been at the forefront of marketing green promotional products, is still experiencing strong demand. “We are only seeing clients increase their green spend and it is because our team is upselling the concept and educating clients on why they should be purchasing green products over traditional products,” says Kris Robinson, vice president for PromoShop.

Robinson believes that the green movement has too much momentum to be impacted too greatly by marketing budget cuts. “All of the media, education, advertisements, etc., all show that green is here to stay and that people need to start doing things immediately in order to stop the process of global warming,” he says. “Everything that is out there these days is about making a change, doing business differently and more environmentally friendly.”

Cox says whether demand is slowing or not, “as a producer of these products, we are in a position to keep the environment at the forefront. The concern is there and it should still be there.” – KH

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