The other day I was listening to the streaming radio station Kink FM out of Portland, Oregon and heard an ad for Northwest Natural Gas. It’s official. NW Natural Gas company has co-opted the color blue, even renaming natural gas “Blue”. And the characteristics they’ve assigned “Blue” are many. According to the NW Natural website “Blue. . .Hates Wasting Energy . . . .. Blue is Reliable . . Blue Despises High Bills. . (and). . Blue and Green are friends.”
Is blue now a responsible, conservative color that also happens to be the environmental movement’s new BFF? The gas company would like us to think so. Especially now that the marketing kudos for environmental sensitivity are a big positive in the world of commerce.
It’s nothing new for a company to use color to relate both subliminal and overt product and marketing ideas to their potential and repeat customers. It’s a smart thing to do. Ask someone in a roomful of people to describe the color Coca-cola red and you’ll soon find somebody who can. Color and marketing are natural partners.
But a color has more than one personality, despite any one expert or company’s declarations. And when a company uses mainly color to define itself and it’s product, they are also declaring themselves the most pertinent and contemporary interpreters of that color.
Taking that position with a product or a color invites comparisons. If a product is clearly a greater good, comparisons are welcome. But natural gas isn’t one of those products. Like all petrochemical energy sources, there are defined environmental disadvantages to natural gas. Those product disadvantages don’t go away with a re-branding, regardless of the color assigned to it or any of the attributes that color may possess.
Calling natural gas the new “blue” doesn’t turn it green (or make it green’s new BFF) no matter how many times anybody says it. And when the gas company insists that it does, their efforts to tint the green movement into a shade that they wash their product with takes green-washing to a new low.