October 24th, 2019

Brands Go Green: Environmental Messages Heat Up Along with the Planet


Ace Metrix

Can you spot the blaring hypocrisy in the photo above? We hope so. 

Between Millennials’ and Gen Z’s fight for a better future and dire reports from scientists, it’s impossible to ignore the environmental issues facing our planet. It’s also becoming impossible for brands to ignore. In a recent study consisting of 6,000 global consumers, 72% reported “they’re currently buying more environmentally friendly products than they were five years ago” and 81% anticipate they’ll buy more in the next five years. Below, we took a look at the Greenest ads from 2019 to date to uncover what environmental trends stood out to consumers most. 

Measurement is derived from NLP and machine learning techniques and viewer verbatim comments. Our Green metric picks up on any phrases close or related to ones like “thinking green,” “energy efficient,” “help our planet” and “recycling,” including synonyms, misspellings, and anomalies. The Greenest ads positioned the brands as proactive and/or compassionate towards the environment. In fact, those with a score above 9.0 are among the Greenest ads of all time.

2019’s Greenest Ads

Brand Ad Title Length Green Score Environmental Topic
Brita Drink Like You Care 0:30 9.8 Single-use plastic
Kohl’s Small Steps 0:15 9.3 Sustainable solutions
Subaru Sharing Kindness 0:30 9.3 Recycling
Soda Stream Saving Thousands 0:15 8.9 Single-use plastic
Samsung Little Energy Saver 0:25 8.4 Energy efficient
Audi Not For You 0:30 8.4 Electric Vehicle
Hyundai A Greener Future 0:30 8 Alternative Fuel
Apple Material Recycling 0:15 7.8 Recycling
American Family Insurance Clean Dreaming with JJ Watt 0:30 7.7 Trash/Pollution

Empowering Green Ads

Going beyond just Likeable Green messages, Subaru, Brita, Kohl’s and American Family Insurance left viewers feeling inspired and motivated, scoring highly on our new Empower metric. The Empower Score is part of our new measurement system that gauges the Cultural Perception of ads. The Empower score measures the positive impact of an ad’s message, indicating the degree to which viewers find it encouraging, inspiring or motivating. At the same time, our Exploit score quantifies negative impact in terms of Cultural Perception, indicating the degree to which an ad might offend viewers in some manner (stereotyping, pandering, glorification).

Subaru’s “Sharing Kindness” scored so high on Empower that it landed in the top .1% of all ads for this metric. American Family Insurance’s “Clean Dreaming with JJ Watt” is among the top 1.7%, while Kohl’s and Brita’s Green creative landed among the top 4.7% of all ads. For most of the overwhelmingly Empowering ads, Green messages were rooted in narratives with a focus on human nature.

Brita “Drink Like You Care”

Usually it’s the consumers questioning a brand’s authenticity around “do-good” messaging. In Brita’s “Drink Like You Care,” the Greenest ad of the year so far, it’s the other way around. The brand puts the viewer in their place, highlighting the striking contradiction between our beliefs and behavior when it comes to caring about the environment.

This lecture-like approach can do more harm than good if consumers feel attacked. So was that the case with this ad? In short, no. “Drink Like You Care” earned the highest Likeability score of all the ads above. Perhaps viewers saw themselves in the spot and rather than feeling lectured, they felt sheepish.

Additionally, the spot didn’t register any negative emotions among gen pop viewers. Not even on our Preachy Emo. Instead, the “Drink like you care” messaging rallied strong support from viewers. In addition to its overwhelmingly Green score, viewers thought the message conveyed was very Powerful and reflected the product in a favorable manner (Prodtastic).

Brita "Drink Like You Care" Emo Plot

Subaru “Sharing Kindness”

Unlike the other auto ads on our Greenest list, Subaru isn’t touting environmental-friendly features in one of its vehicles. In fact, there isn’t a single car in “Sharing Kindness.” Instead Subaru stays on brand, focusing on its Love Promise to encourage and support compassion and small acts of kindness in communities across the nation. 

The message in “Sharing Kindness” connected with the brand in a genuine manner that resulted in feelings of Authenticity among viewers as well as some praise for Subaru (Brandtastic) and the ad itself (Adtastic). A combination of strong branding, Green information and a Powerful Narrative earned this ad scores significantly above 2019 Auto advertising norms on every quantitative score we measure (Likeability, Information, Change, etc).

Subaru "Sharing Kindess" Emo Plot

Kohl’s “Small Steps”

When consumers consider the environmental impact of businesses, the retail industry isn’t one of the first to come to mind. That’s why Kohl’s is one of the more unexpected brands on our list, especially with such a high Green score that ties with a Subaru ad. In just 15 seconds, Kohl’s built awareness of its environmental commitment much to viewers pleasant surprise.

The three sustainable practices Kohl’s outlined in “Small Steps” positioned the brand as moving in a new direction. So much so, it scored 21% above 2019 retail advertising norms on our Change metric. As indicated in the sample of viewer verbatim comments below, the new Green-information presented helped drive top-2 box purchase intent well above those same norms:

“I really liked that this ad wasn’t about selling anything but instead was about a positive action that the company is doing and is supporting. This makes me want to shop there more than a sale or a coupon.” Female 36-49, Much More Likely

“It was kind of boring until I heard the word sustainable which interested me more. I never thought of Kohls that way” Female 50+, Somewhat More Likely

“Thanks for showing me about your commitment to the environment, from the solar installs on stores, to the change in your bags when someone shops in store. I think you’re well on the way to getting what I like.” Male 36-49, Somewhat More Likely

“I didn’t know Kohl’s was working to help the environment by using solar panels and recycled bags. I think it’s great they are taking a stand and doing something about it” Female 21-35, Somewhat More Likely

“Really pleased to see that Kohl’s is going in the sustainable direction. Really improves our standing with them, which was already on solid ground as it is.” Male 50+, Much More Likely

Product Focused Green Ads

Soda Stream, Samsung, Audi, Hyundai and Apple emphasized Green product features and/or benefits from recycling tungsten to alternative fuel. Their ads scored highest on our Information quantitative metric, the top scoring was Apple’s “Material Recycling.”

Both Hyundai and Audi registered some emotional response with viewers on our Upscale metric, even though the former is in the non-lux auto category. This impression comes from the product features advertised — as well as general brand perceptions for Audi — indicating consumers view alternative fuel and electric vehicles as modern, luxurious and innovative. 

Thanks to the Greenest ads for giving a voice to environmental issues! We’re excited to see these trends spread across industries. We’ll continue to measure Green on every ad we test (along with 56 other emotions) to see which brands are leading the conversation.


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