Green marketing. “Greenwashing.” Green is the hot color for marketers these days, but there’s an old-fashioned kind of green that most of us overlook: no, not money… trees. There’s evidence that viewing trees and similar greenery can have physiological and behavioral effects:

“Visual exposure” to settings with trees produced significant recovery from stress in five minutes, evidenced by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension…

Desk workers without views of nature claimed 23 percent more incidents of illness in the previous six months than those with views of nature.

Hospital patients who had views of trees needed less medication and had faster recovery times after surgery than those without such views. [From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Trees can give your spirits a lift in many different ways by Edward Eveld, McClatchy Newspapers.]

While this research (I was able to track most of these brief bullet points back to actual published studies) may seem more relevant to human resource managers and office planners than marketers, there are certainly situations where a physical environment is part of the marketing mix. For example, many sales efforts occur in a place of the salesperson’s choosing, either an office or neutral meeting place.

One setting that comes to mind is the auto dealership. I recall one brand which began by requiring dealerships to have some kind of a stream or water feature in their showroom, though I don’t know if any plants were involved. (Readers, help me out – was that Infiniti? It seems consistent with their initial Zen commercials, but I couldn’t track this down.) Buying a car can certainly be stressful. If viewing trees for a few minutes cuts stress, having customers spend time in a location with a nice view of trees and greenery might be just the ticket to take some of the tension out of the process. A closing room with a view, anyone?

Similarly, salespeople who meet clients in restaurants might opt for venues with more exposure to nature to relax their customers.

As with much neuromarketing research, these findings raise more questions. Particularly in the urban environments where many of us work, views of real trees may be elusive. While it seems unlikely that a dusty artificial ficus tree would have much of an effect, what about an office area with lush, living greenery? Would a burbling waterfall have any impact? Recorded nature sounds? What about a high-definition display in the event that no window overlooking Central Park is available? My guess is that the more natural an environment looks, the greater any effect will be. Minimal nods in the direction of greenery may satisfy the interior designer, but won’t have much effect on either employees or customers.

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