Our top 10: the eco-brand hit parade

10 February 2009

Lots of mainstream manufacturers have tried to award themselves some environmental credentials by hatching a specialist green brand. In many cases these brands signify nothing more substantial than the fitment of lower-friction tyres and longer gear ratios to an existing diesel. Some of these labels are now well known, others less so, but are any of them any good as brands in themselves? Are the words memorable? Are they meaningful? Do they press the right buttons? Are they classy or cringeworthy? Here, for your amusement, is our countdown of our favourite 10.

10. DRIVe – Volvo
Pronounced “drive-ee”, Volvo’s envirobrand is minimal in the extreme, as is our enthusiasm for it. The small “e” presumably stands for environment, or economy, or efficiency, or something. We’re not sure. Also, we can’t help noticing that DRIVe is just one letter short of drivel.

9. Eco Drive - Fiat
Fiat has taken the Ronseal approach to naming its green brand. While Eco Drive has the virtue of being highly descriptive, it’s not going to engender any warm feelings or trigger instant recognition among lovers of emotive Italian metal. Incidentally the same “does exactly what it says on the tin” approach has been applied to Fiat’s petrol-saving engine management system – called, with Latin flair, Start&Stop. We’ll stop now.

8. BlueMotion – Volkswagen
Including the word “motion” in your green brand is a risky move. As Rolls-Royce famously discovered when contemplating the name “Silver Mist”, it’s best to avoid subtle references to poop in motor naming – “mist” being roughly equivalent to “crap” in German. We can’t help feeling that a blue motion is something you should see your doctor about, and quick. Making matters worse, at the bottom of the Volkswagen environmental range is the Polo BlueMotion, which unfortunately is a bid of a turd.

7. Blue Lion – Peugeot
Not as bad as the Red Lion, but still sounding quite a lot like a pub. Also makes us think of the Blue Cross animal hospital charity, which probably doesn’t treat many hypothermic African predators. Maybe it’s the mental image of a frozen feline, but somehow this brand just leaves us cold.

6. Airdream - Citroën
A little bit of fresh air is welcome in motoring terms, dreams less so, given that falling asleep at the wheel is officially not good. Air is the syllable trying to remind us of the environmental side of things, connecting to the idea of clean air, but dream – as in pipe dream – is not a word that suggests determined action. All in all Citroën has chosen a name that puts us in mind of an inflatable mattress. Uncomfortable and not a serious long-term proposition. Yawn.

5. GreenLine – Skoda
GreenLine sounds quite a lot like a bus company, which is not entirely inappropriate given Skoda’s no-frills approach to transport. It has the word “green” in it, rather than the much vaguer and more voguish “blue”, which again suits Skoda's businesslike demeanour. There’s no dynamism to the name, though, again like Skoda making an appeal to the head not the heart. We admit to a grudging admiration.

4. BlueEfficiency – Mercedes-Benz; and EfficientDynamics – BMW
We lump together the two big German brands because they’ve both chosen to reinforce national stereotypes by concentrating on the concept of efficiency. Mercedes plumps to pair it with the over-familiar blue – the colour of clean skies and the earth viewed from space, in case you hadn’t noticed. BMW manages to coin a green brand that actually ignores the earth, the environment, the colours green and blue (despite the blue sky in its propellor logo) and instead concentrates on dynamism, which it does best, and lack of waste, which it is increasingly doing better than its rivals. We can only approve.

3. Econetic – Ford
A portmanteau neologism, pairing eco and kinetic (as in movement). Clever, but not smug. It’s a meaningful and memorable term, and is attached to some attractive cars that will actually make a difference by being bought and used by lots of people.

2. Minimalism - Mini
Actually just another name for EfficientDynamics, Minimalism is a great term to describe the Mini’s raft of energy-saving measures, including stop-and-start and an intelligent, regenerative alternator. Like most things to do with the Mini’s marketing, Minimalism is a bit clever-clever, but we love it none the less. It works in a Ronseal way, being an ordinary word that describes exactly what the aim is – using less to achieve the same – but it’s neat and appealing in a way that Fiat’s Eco Drive can only dream about. Very nearly our winner.

1. Ecomotive – Seat
Auto Emoción is Seat’s tagline, and the Spaniards have done a much finer job than Fiat’s Italians at injecting a sense of passion into their economy brand. Ecomotive, a portmanteau of eco and emotive also manages to suggest motion, plus – from “motive” – a sense of purpose. A wonderful brand that packs a lot of meaning into a modest number of letters. It’s our green brand champion – from a naming standpoint at least. We wonder if the Ecomotive cars themselves are any good?

So that’s our top 10. It’s not exhaustive – we couldn’t think of anything to say about Hyundai’s copycat i-Blue and Renault’s me-too Eco2, for example.

So, what is your favourite eco brand, and why?

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