Posted by: Burth Helm on May 6, 2008
Over at Seth’s Blog, Seth Godin gripes about a Tumi ad, pictured, that never explains why more luggage equals more trees, or acknowledges that manufacturing luggage likely cancels out the trees’ contribution to the environment. He writes:
“The easiest marketing promise to make is to say you’ll do something green if people consume what you sell. That you’ll support one green cause or another. No one is in charge of checking out your story, and my guess is that 90% of the time, it leads to a net negative—more landfill, more carbon, more waste.”
So I put in a call to Tumi. Why does buying Alpha Collection luggage “Help Plant 100,000 Trees”? The short answer: It doesn’t. Tumi donated $100,000 to a non-profit, American Forrest, which plants a tree for every $1 donated, a little while ago. There’s no link to current suitcase sales.
In all fairness, I’m glad Tumi is supporting the environment. Beyond this American Forrest donation, later this summer it also plans to donate 20% of the proceeds from a forthcoming messenger bag to Bicycle for a Day, actor Mathew Modine’s non-profit company.
But this “Go Green, Get Green” claim is cheap and misleading. Yes, one could — and a company representative did — argue that if no one bought anything from Tumi, the company couldn’t make donations like these. Um, OK. But designing a whole promotion around that tenuous truth and slapping it on the front page of the company website is exceedingly tacky.
As consumers grow more skeptical of environmental tie-ins, marketers will have to step it up. Godin, over on his blog, has suggestions. In my opinion, cashing in on Green means eschewing the one-day sale in favor of Patagonia or Method’s method - hewing day-in, day-out to a green brand promise.