Does Earth Day Need A Lesson In Branding?
Looking back on 40 years of green thinking.
The world celebrated Earth Day last week, on April 22nd, and I noticed that a lot of printers ran special green printing promotions, or blogged about sustainable printing. But I hesitated to post about the day because, for printers, every day is Earth Day.
In our industry, we don't have the luxury to ever stop thinking about our environmental impact, to stop learning about how we can reduce that impact, or to ignore our role as environmental stewards.
That being said, an interesting question might be: what can printers do to improve the experience of Earth Day in their communities? It's a great day to hold events like community cleanups, and to share knowledge about environmental issues, but an even more interesting suggestion was implied by an Earth Day article on the AIGA website this year, in which author Phil Patton posed the question: “Why is there no simple single symbol or badge of environmentalism, like the peace sign?”
The rest of Patton's article goes on to explore the various symbols, flags, and even mascots that have been used to symbolize eco-consciousness over the years, but they all have one thing in common: they all fail to be particularly memorable, and certainly, none have succeeded in achieving ubiquity as an emblem for Earth Day or the ideology it represents.
The suggestion implied in Patton's article seems to be that Earth Day could benefit from some kind of branding experience – a slogan, a logo, a particular shade of green – that when flown in flag or poster form, would instantly remind people that Earth Day is on its way, and ideally, would fit with a set of ideas and principles that would guide the average consumer in their actions on that day.
Every other major holiday and event that we observe comes with a specific, often globally recognizable iconography – why not Earth Day?
The first Earth Day, on April 22nd, 1970, was intended as a day of education and awareness. Basically, people were supposed to get together, and learn about what they could do to help the planet throughout the rest of the year. However, as the decades have gone by, the day seems to have become difficult to define; people have a feeling like they should do something good for the environment on Earth Day, but what? Can the planet's ecological problems really be solved in one day?
Of course, the answer is no. That's why Earth Day originally began as a day of learning and planning for the rest of the year. And maybe that has gotten lost due to a lack of solid branding.
While the idea of branding itself might initially appear to be in direct opposition to Earth Day, it seems like the planet itself probably needs a strong brand, and a message that's recognizable and easy for people to get behind. Maybe then Earth Day could become more than just a yearly one-off, instead serving as a launchpad for an entire four seasons of ecological stewardship? And maybe that's something that the print and design industry could contribute, in the years to come.