Traditional Marketing Discovers Sustainability

By Bonnie J. Wallace

Philip Kotler, influential marketing guru, has published an article announcing that marketers must begin to account for environmental constraints in their marketing strategies. Kotler declares the new norm in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Marketing in his article titled, “Reinventing Marketing to Manage the Environmental Imperative.”

To illustrate, he redefines the 4 Ps:

  •  Product: Sourcing, carbon footprint minimization, and packaging issues are emphasized. Service-based companies are urged to include energy use, supplies, and contribution to green causes to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.
  • Price: Kotler reminds us that conscious customers are often willing to pay more for greener products. He highlights the growing role of regulation and its effect on pricing through anticipated greater responsibility for externality costs.
  • Place: The focus is on local, decentralized production, online selling to reduce the carbon footprint of individual purchasers, and examination of the sustainable practices of supply chain partners.
  • Promotion: Kotler’s ideas for environmentally responsible promotion include the standard print-to-online shift, making label changes to reflect ingredients more specifically, and general broadcasting of an increased “good citizen” status. Sustainable paths to growth are emphasized.

Kotler has personified traditional marketing, and now he’s getting on the sustainability bandwagon. This is another sign that sustainability is going mainstream. Good news for the planet, bad news for companies who have been relying on green branding as their chief marketing strategy.

It won’t be long before green marketing strategies fail to differentiate products at all—which may be a good thing.  In what ways do you think companies dedicated to sustainable values might pursue new avenues of differentiation?


Bonnie J. Wallace is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, specializing in responsible business. She holds a Sustainable MBA from Bainbridge Graduate Institute as well as a strong belief in business as a tool for transformation. When she’s not writing, Bonnie enjoys exploring ways that art can create community, and performing her supporting role as a stage mom.

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1 Comment

Filed under marketing, sustainability

One response to “Traditional Marketing Discovers Sustainability

  1. Bonnie! Love it!!
    I am a fan, and will encourage others to be.
    I can’t wait for the time our businesses “cross-pollinate”!!!
    Thank you for the details, and yes, the fact that Kotler is declaring sustainability as the “new norm” is fantastic

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