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Your Business Commentary

Mike's often irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an occasional guest columnist.

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Green Is the New Primary Color

But the subject isn't so simple.

by Joel Goobich (August 17, 2009)

We all remember having it drummed into us at school that Red, Yellow and Blue are the three primary colors from which all the other colors in the world can be made. Well, the world of color has changed. Green has joined this small private club of primary colors. Everywhere we turn these days we are bombarded by Green. It seems that every trade publication or news magazine is promoting some "Green" product or writing about the importance of being "Green."

Yes, Green is now perceived as a primary color with perhaps more importance than those boring primary colors of yore. But does it have the same absolute characteristics of red, yellow, and blue?

More and more products are promoted for their greenness. Government agencies, from local to federal, have more programs than ever that place a premium on environmentally-friendly services. The current administration is strongly advocating "greener" cars with better gas mileage, less pollution, and smaller carbon footprints.

Environmental awareness is critically important and should not be trivialized. But the current "Green" mania is on the cusp of turning a positive into a negative through overexposure. Perhaps we should step back and reflect on what the new Green really means before it completely takes over the color consciousness of our society.

Green has different shades.

Just as there is no single shade of red, yellow or blue, there is no single shade of green. And so there are many different shades of environmental awareness. The green that one person sees is not necessarily the same for everyone.

Alas, the overuse of the word and color Green is quickly making the color and its vernacular meaning less compelling precisely because there are so many different shades and meanings to Green.

This not only leads to cynicism regarding the claims of one company's green programs or products versus another, but has and will lead to downright fraudulent claims of "greenness."

Needless to say there are some markets where there are well-defined definitions for "green," but without a standard that everyone can understand, "Green" is becoming the most murky of colors. A child's finger paint concoction looks clearer in comparison.

The appeal of the three primary colors is in their absoluteness. We are taught that we can build our own entire universe of colors with them. Unfortunately the overuse or misuse of Green does not lend itself to this same characteristic.

So how do we make Green a true primary color equal to the others? We need to set well recognized and measurable means to determine the different meanings of Green.

If leading Market associations work together, perhaps in conjunction with the Department of Commerce, they could develop a universal "green'' symbol which could be verified, objective and lead to clarity and definition of the various shades of "Green," then the public would have a better grasp of the importance of this issue. This symbol could conceivably be graded based on industry standards in the following areas: A) Recyclability ... B) Sustainability ... C) Carbon Footprint ... D) Safety (Non-toxic).

The symbol could be used for products, packaging and raw materials similar to the "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval. It would bring rationality, consistency and reliability to what "green" means. In essence it would define the different shades of Green for us.

In addition, our schools could provide a great place to educate our children on why Green is a primary color of extreme importance. For decades we have been teaching civics to our youngsters. What could be more civic minded than teaching Green?

We have seen the power of education in changing social norms. For example, teaching about the dangers of smoking at an early age has dramatically changed social habits. We can do the same things regarding Green initiatives. We can teach that being Green is not just about putting the papers or bottles in the recycling bin every week. We can teach how being Green is truly a primary part of responsible social interaction. Being Green is a good example of cause and effect certainly an important lesson to impress upon our younger generation.

Finally, Green is not a political color. It does not belong to any political party or movement. We should not let it be hijacked by politicians. Being Green is a social contract between society and the natural world in which we live. There will always be compromises and dynamic changes as social mores and environmental and ecological information becomes forthcoming.

In conclusion, Green can indeed become a primary color in our society, but at present has too many shades to be treated as such.

Comment

Wal-Mart announced it will be asking its vendors to start supplying information similar to what Joel described, so that eventually consumers can look at a product's package and see a "green" chart, just as consumers today can look at food and see a list of ingredients.

If you're not a Wal-Mart vendor, you may think this doesn't affect you, but it probably will. Just as Wal-Mart insisted on UPC codes, EDI, etc., other retailers quickly followed suit. Mike Hartnett

(Note: Joel Goobich is the President of i3 Marketing LLC, a product development, marketing and consulting firm that specializes in art materials.)

xxx

 

 

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