In the 1970s, a best-selling novel called The Greening of America, which pressed for a nonviolent political revolution, became the manifesto of the hippie counterculture.
Now another greening is sweeping the nation's architecture, marketing, advertising, and food processing. A just-released Boston College survey found that four in ten Americans go out of their way to choose so-called green products that are environmentally friendly.
No wonder more and more corporations are scrambling to convince customers that their products are tuned into the environment and contributing to a cleaner, more natural world.
Green homes are trumpeted as energy-efficient and sparing in their use of water. Green products avoid toxic chemicals. Green restaurants have replaced plastic ware with biodegradable plates and cups. Green services include the sharing of electric or hybrid automobiles.
There's even a whole new financial industry built around investments in ecologically sensitive companies.
And consumer strategists like Isabelle Albanese are helping companies create messages that tout their greenness. Just as General Electric coined an entirely new word - ecomagination – Albanese advises companies to pick catchy – but also clear and believable – green messages.
She says saying things like, "Our product reduces your carbon footprint," are hopelessly vague and pompous. Better, she says, to say your product saves you $10 a month off your electric bill. Or that your company is trying to do better, rather than boasting that you are cleaning up the water and air. Environmentally savvy consumers, who are wary of corporations, just won't believe such exaggerations.
For sure, companies big and small are seeing green in the greening of America. It's the color of money.
[Isabelle Albanese's latest book on advertising strategy is The 4 Cs of Truth in Communications: How to Identify, Discuss, Evaluate, and Present Stand-Out, Effective Communication. It's published by Paramount.]