Graphic design online classes and those in traditional programs both teach students how to create effective ad campaigns. Now, as carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere have passed 395 parts per million and climate change appears to be accelerating, environmentalists need the services of good graphic designers more than ever before as they work to create effective green marketing campaigns. Global warming science doesn’t seem able to persuade a large portion of the world’s population about the dangers facing the planet. However, where science is falling short, perhaps marketing can fill the gaps.
Many schools have begun to teach the value and technique of green marketing, although generally through their environmental science programs. Some classes will focus on marketing, but their main goal is to build researchers. However, if these programs are going to be truly successful, then marketing professionals need to be involved and allow the scientists to focus on collecting data.
During the 2012 Grammy Awards telecast, Chipotle Mexican Grill aired an ad favoring sustainable farming that featured Willie Nelson performing a cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” The ad depicted animated animals pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, raised in cramped quarters, as they were being trucked off to meat production factories. As the chorus plays, the farmer has a change of heart. The cages become pastures upon which the formerly jam-packed animals are happily grazing. “I’m going back to the start,” Nelson croons as the farmer joins hands with an older woman, apparently to signify that he had learned his lesson and was taking farming back to where it used to be.
Nelson’s cover was a hit; even organizations like Fox News proclaimed that the Chipotle ad had stolen the show. YouTube views of the advertisement skyrocketed, and Twitter users proclaimed that the ad brought tears to their eyes. Nelson’s version of “The Scientist” was made available on iTunes. The ad was one of the most effective environmental efforts in recent memory.
Not every graphic designer has the support of Chipotle’s millions or Nelson’s musical and social activism credibility. However, even print marketing can still communicate a power ecological message. In 2010, as reported in The New York Times, eco-friendly cleaning products manufacturer Method released a new detergent. “Say no to jugs,” was the slogan of the campaign, which ridiculed many manufacturers’ placement of detergents in large plastic jugs. Method also proclaimed that it stood for a “jug-free America.”
“Are you a jug addict? Frequently overdosing?” the ads asked. “Get off the jugs and get clean.” The print ads appeared in Family Circle, Real Simple and People, and the digital ads ran for over three months. According to Time, the company generated over $100 million in revenue during 2011. The Method campaign shows that, when smartly packaged and cleverly delivered, environmentalism pays for companies and is embraced by consumers.
Method isn’t the only company working to deliver environmentally-friendly products and messaging. Even large corporate behemoths like Proctor & Gamble and Clorox have started presenting green products and marketing campaigns. On some level, the public wants to practice better environmental stewardship. They just need to be asked in the right way.
Going green may not only be the altruistic thing to do. Going green could also deposit a lot of green into graphic designers’ bank accounts. Perhaps environmentalists should rely less on science and more on marketing. Even if scientists don’t thank them, the earth will.