Some marketers see an opportunity to exploit the language of sustainability by overhyping their communications, exaggerating consumer benefits and building misconceptions with communications designed to confuse rather than clarify consumer decision making, Larry Light, chairman-CEO of Arcature, writes in an AdAge article.
Light points to the use of “Fresh” in food marketing as an example: “We know that people want fresh foods. Fresh is fabulous. But what does fresh really mean? Does it mean freshly made? Freshly made in front of me? Made from ingredients that were once fresh? Prepared fresh every day? What does “packaged for freshness” mean? Some restaurants use highly processed foods but say their food is fresh. Is freshly assembled food fresh?”
The word “natural,” which unlike “organic” has no legal definition, has similar problems. “There are pretzels that are labeled naturally baked,” Light writes. “Can pretzels be unnaturally baked?”
The problem, according to the article, is that some companies sacrifice responsible behavior in order to focus on profitable growth. “This corrupts the concepts and gives marketing a deservedly bad reputation,” writes Light.
But Light goes on to say that the “Sustainability Opportunity is a great chance to change the perception that marketing is contributing to social problems to a belief that marketing can be an effective part of the solution.”