Leslie Cook

Want to Save Money? Go Green!

In In My Opinion... on October 26, 2009 at 3:00 pm

RecyclingSymbolGreenA few weeks ago, an organization I belong to announced that it was “Going Green” by ending the publication of a couple of their standard quarterly magazines.  Although I’m all for the “Green” revolution, I question the use of the term when it is used simply to save money for organizations.  Yes, having written marketing materials for large corporations, I’m quite aware of the spinning of bad news.  In this case, the correspondence welcomed us to feel good about sacrifice, and informed us that, if you really, really, really needed a paper copy, it would cost us extra.  In an email immediately following this announcement, we were informed that our membership fees would increase by 100%.

Yes, I know.  One of the most frequently used means of getting people to do something is to penalize them for it.  Want people to use less gasoline?  Raise the price and they’ll either use less or buy a more efficient car.  Don’t want them to smoke? Increase the price of cigarettes by 500%.  It works.  But a less frequently used technique is positive reinforcement.  How about reducing my membership fees when you take away a feature rather than increasing them?  Because when I’m penalized for “going green,” I just might respond by withdrawing completely.  I suppose this response might actually help in the green effort by saving energy on emails, billing, etc.  Unfortunately, it will also reduce their revenue.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m against going green.  I’m not.  I recycle.  I drive a fuel efficient car. I think we should try and save the planet from pesky humans who have been polluting it for centuries. But when you pair a clearly negative outcome (removing a much loved benefit and increasing the price of what’s left) with a positive movement (conservation) you just might inadvertently make the positive outcome a negative in the eyes of us pesky humans.  And when that happens, extremist nuts might just use that information to incite a backlash against the very things we know are good for us and undermine that good thing that we were trying to do.

What’s the solution?  I don’t know.  I would suggest being honest and not “repackaging” a bad thing with a good one.  In this case, if you can’t afford to produce a publication, tell your customers that you have to cut back.  We understand.  Right now, we all have to cut back.  If I were writing the copy, that’s what I’d do.  Then I’d throw in the upside of our bad economy.  Hey, we may have to cut back but at least we’re saving trees!

  1. I totally agree! I mean, I like being environmentally conscious too, but one has to recognize that there are other motivations behind some company actions. I’d understand if they want to cut back because of expense, or any other variety of reasons. Like you mentioned, we all understand about cutting back in this economy. But let’s just be completely honest. Tell me the whole truth and you might get me on board. Skip a few details, and you might lack some loyalty on my part.

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