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Language Of Sustainability Exploited By Marketers

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.”

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One thought on “Language Of Sustainability Exploited By Marketers

  1. This is a real problem, because sustainability is so complicated that the language needs to be consistent and simple. We already know that corporate suffer from very low levels of trust, yet they’re a massive part of the solution.

    On the flip side of it though, the language of sustainability itself isn’t very accessible, so communicators need to work hard to identify language that works. We’ve been doing a bit of quick and dirty, soon to be launched, research to find out what terms resonate with the public. For example, the term ‘eco-safe driving’ is quite common in the sustainability community, but our focus group laughed at it. the term ‘savvy driving’ however got a really warm reception. It’s a complementary and flattering term, as one participant said “Savvy is about being smart”.

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