The sooner companies can go green and prove it to their patrons, the better off they will be - in more ways than one

These days everyone is going green, online marketers included. Whether it is cutting back on printed collateral or environmentally friendly packaging, marketers are hopping on the green bandwagon because the risks are too great to do otherwise. The hotel and casino industry does not stick out as a particularly un-green industry, but I think there are opportunities for this sector to take a stand and join the ranks of other green brands. 

Showing clients how green your company is can do many things for your brand in the eyes of consumers; it shows you are environmentally responsible, gives potential clients a reason to choose your establishment over another, and sets your hotel and casino apart from the rest of the competitive field. And let’s face it, the competition is pretty fierce.

On another level, incorporating greener accommodations - like using low wattage light bulbs or environmentally conscious laundry procedures - into your service offerings can save you money in the long term. From a marketing perspective, little steps like these can all add up to one important thing: You can say with authority that your hotel and casino is going green, and that is marketable.

Research is already showing that green marketing messages are resonating with consumers, and on top of that, users have remarkable recall rates for green advertisements. A Burst Media survey reports that recall of advertising with green messaging is extremely high with 37.1 percent of consumers saying they frequently recall green messaging and an additional third recalling it occasionally. Seventy-nine percent of users also use the Internet to gather their information about companies’ green initiatives.

However, the survey also points out that 63 percent of respondents say they “sometimes” believe advertisements where companies claim to be green. For marketers this means that you should promote your green efforts online and consumers will subsequently have a high retention of your marketing messages - if you can back it up.

Avoid 'greenwashing'

As mentioned above, users are skeptical of companies that boast about their green images. If a company claims they are green and later users are able to prove otherwise, significant consumer backlash is likely to ensue especially in online forums.

Bloggers do not take lightly to those who misrepresent themselves as green. So, I must caution that if it fits into your marketing plan to promote green efforts, it is important not to embellish or spin your assertions. It could come back to haunt you.

Praise yourself

While the end goal of going green should ideally not be to generate publicity, if your brand is green, there is no need to be shy about it. Brands ranging from Tide to GM are all showcasing the ways they are decreasing their impact on the environment, so there is no reason why you cannot do the same. The key here is to market your greenness in an honest, transparent fashion and to avoid boastful self-promotion. Create a blog that allows employees and guests to post their thoughts about the current green initiatives and suggest additional ways to do more.

Discovering ways to implement green initiatives at your hotel and casino will involve a give and take between you and consumers. In-room response cards, online social forums or interactive banner ads could all serve as important outlets for guests and visitors to relay information to marketing teams about how green efforts are being perceived. Once green implementations are made, send out a newsletter or e-mail to valued customers, so they can be among the first to know.

In most cases, going green will be a slow process, but marketers can keep consumers in the loop about the steps that are being taken to make a difference in the future.

How to market your greenness

As companies become environment-friendly, I think the Internet will be where most marketers will turn to share this with their consumer base. Why? Because the Internet is a green medium; unlike newspapers and magazines, the Internet does not use paper, and it has a direct response component unlike TV or radio. Companies are already adding green-specific pages to their Web sites. This makes it easy for consumers who are interested in these efforts to find you. Using social networking sites and Web 2.0 applications, marketers can hope to spread their messaging virally - letting satisfied customers publicize their experiences to other users on a marketer’s behalf. Additionally, on the green-focused sections of a site, online marketers could use an RSS feed to post news about emerging trends and research about how companies are evolving in their green programs.

Another option would be to create a virtual tour of your facilities that points out how and where changes have been made. For example, is a site that challenges other agencies to go green. If a users clicks on certain objects on screen, a window pops up that highlights a green initiative, like encouraging employees to bike to work.

Web sites could reflect how these steps make a difference in the environment. Posting a counter of trees saved or wattage spared can put real numbers to an abstract concept like going green. Companies that do not employ some kind of environment forethought will be the minority soon enough. With this in mind, it usually serves well to be proactive versus reactive. While I am confident that there are still naysayers about the green movement, there is a definite opportunity here for the hotel and casino industry to take a lead in the hospitality sector by incorporating sustainable practices into their everyday procedures. The rest of the business world will be green with envy when confronted with your foresight and marketing execution.