Eco-Advantage Blog

January 11, 2007 | Andrew Winston | Jump to: Comments (0) | Post A Comment

Visa Tries Some Green Marketing

I saw an ad on TV last night that I found sort of amusing (and not entirely because it was trying to be funny). Visa was pitching its business credit card. Papers were flying through the air over a city. The voice over said that going with their credit card would increase efficiency, reduce paperwork, and — as the papers flying through the air made their way to a forest and slid into the trunks of trees — ‘save a tree or two’.

We talk about the “3rd button” of marketing in Green to Gold (other posts here and here). This is a perfect example. Main benefits: efficiency, less paperwork. Check. 3rd benefit that may distinguish the product in some way on green: save a tree. Check. But in this case, the core image in the ad was all around the green pitch. Things are really changing out there when a credit card is pitching itself as green.

Now here’s what I found amusing. I have no idea if the card will really reduce paper flow any more than another product — most businesses do a lot of online banking already. But I’m reminded of a consulting project i worked on in the early ’90s for International Paper (I was at Boston Consulting Group at the time). The 80’s were supposed to have heralded the “paperless office.” When we analyzed the sales of copy paper in the U.S. from 1980 to 1990, guess what? It had tripled. And paper sales have only continued to rise (see the U.S. Stat Abstract - a favorite resource - here, if you’re interested). I think most people also know this on an intuitive level (how many piles are still around your desk?). We may have reduced paper per unit of information, but we’ve increased information flow by orders of magnitude.

So, can Visa back up the green claim? Unlikely. So that means, watch out. This is a fairly innocuous ad, but companies need to be careful on the green marketing front to back up what they’re saying.



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