It had to happen. Highly compensated marketing and advertising pros take one overused public relations buzzword and simply jam it together with another overused public relations buzzword. In one particular case, wouldn’t you expect a little bit more creativity from a $40 billion global company with 290,000 employees?

And yet FedEx has adopted the tag “Sustainable Solutions” to tell its green story, even with a tantalizing one-minute animated television spot. The tale with cute animal tails (see link below) depicts how FedEx trucks and planes are doing good for the planet, while burning fossil fuels to ship a package from point A to FedEx’s mega-package distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee before sending it on to point B, which actually may be closer to point A in the first place…if you follow me.

When I was living in Pleasanton, CA, located in the East Bay, I was selling two tickets via StubHub for the September 2009 Oregon vs. California football game in Eugene, OR. Not surprisingly a buyer from Berkeley wanted the tickets. StubHub provided me with the shipping label to fedex (corporate verb) the tickets from my Pleasanton house in Alameda County to the buyer’s Berkeley house 34 miles to the west in Alameda County.

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I was provided with a tracking number and followed the trail of my two Oregon seats for sale. Did they go from FedEx in Pleasanton over the 580 freeway and then to 880 to Berkeley, a trip that takes about 40 minutes in traffic? You guessed it. They were transported by FedEx in one of its sustainable trucks to a sustainable plane 2,061 miles across two-time zones to Memphis, offloaded at the Memphis Airport, processed, reloaded and then reshipped 2,061 miles in a sustainable plane back across the same two-time zones to the Bay Area and then driven in a sustainable truck to the final destination about 34 miles from my house.

How’s that for a sustainable solution? For a 34-mile trip, my package traveled 4,156 miles. Sorry, I still don’t get it.

In fairness to FedEx, my two tickets, placed and sealed in a recycled package, were transported by FedEx in one of its electric trucks to a low-emission plane 2,061 miles across two-time zones to Memphis, offloaded at the Memphis Airport, processed, reloaded and then reshipped 2,061 miles in a low-emission plane back across the same two-time zones to the Bay Area and then driven in a low-emission truck to the final destination about 34 miles from my house.

The FedEx “Sustainable Solutions” story is grounded in electric trucks, recycled materials and low-emission planes, which should help the “shipping giant” dodge a “greenwashing” charge. However, the question needs to be asked: Is it really green if all roads and flight plans lead to Memphis IT processing regardless of the destination of the package? Maybe there is a logical explanation, but FedEx will have a hard time explaining the environmental benefits of shipping my tickets first to Memphis in order to ship them back to Berkeley.

To top it off, FedEx with its new marketing tag may be infringing on or borrowing from the plethora of firms that call themselves (drum roll): “Sustainable Solutions.” There is Sustainable Solutions International as in building products http://www.sustainablesolutions.com/. And there is Sustainable Solutions Unlimited as in solar products http://solutions21st.com/. And yes, there is Sustainable Solutions Corporation that educates clients about sustainable solutions http://www.sustainablesolutionscorporation.com/. And not to be outdone, there is Sustainable Solutions LLC, a natural resource consulting company in the citadel of infinite wisdom, Washington, DC http://www.sustainablesolutionsllc.net/. Overall, there are almost 10 million Google search results for “Sustainable Solutions.”

Almost one year ago, Almost DailyBrett commented on how the public relations industry was pounding certain buzzwords, reducing them to cliché status as a result of their reflexive overuse and overhyping. The words (and phrases) include: Brand, Cloud, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Organic, Solutions, Sustainable, Thinking Out of the Box and Thought Leadership. And all of them can be incorporated, as Almost DailyBrett demonstrated, into one mega run-on sentence courtesy of the PR industry:

“Today we are thinking out of the box in leveraging a portfolio of organic, sustainable cloud computing solutions that enhance your company brand, while demonstrating thought leadership and exemplifying your dedication to corporate social responsibility.”

Almost DailyBrett paid special recognition to Microsoft for taking two buzz words and incorporating them into the same ad: “Most Comprehensive Solutions for the Cloud on Earth” or “Cloud Power.” This year, FedEx is dispensing with all the additional words and just jamming “Sustainable” and “Solutions” together.

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Maybe FedEx could get more bang for their green marketing buck by combining three overused PR buzzwords instead of just two. How about: “Organic Sustainable Solutions?” Surely, FedEx’s electric trucks, recycled materials and low-emission planes can be certified by some organization as “organic.” If “Sustainable Solutions” assists FedEx in telling its Corporate Social Responsibility story, then “Organic Sustainable Solutions” would be even better from a CSR standpoint and maybe even when it comes to Thought Leadership as well.

Now how can FedEx work the “Cloud” into the “Organic Sustainable Solutions Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) campaign? Certainly clouds are organic and Darwin knows they are sustainable.

The real issue is the word, “Sustainable.” The word is everywhere, and it seems to be used by everyone. Heck, I am taking “Sustainable Business” right now. And if “Sustainable” is used everywhere by everyone when does it start becoming noise? And if “Sustainable” becomes the equivalent of verbal elevator music, then does it eventually lose its currency with the general public? And if this currency is spent, then who is responsible? Are PR and marketing pros guilty of literally loving buzz words and phrases to death? That’s not sustainable.

http://www.commercialsihate.com/fedex-sustainable-solutions–video_topic11750.html

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/pounding-pr-buzz-words-to-death/

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