April 4th, 2009
05:38 AM ET

Dear President Obama #75: Turning on the green machine

Reporter's Note: President Obama, when he is not traveling the world, is asking Americans to help him with advice on how to run the country. After waiting on hold for the better part of an afternoon, I decided writing the White House might be better than calling; and ever since I’ve turned out a letter a day.

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Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Loved that speech over in Europe about taking on global climate change. Your thoughts were clear, sharp, and the crowd warmed up to you like…well, I guess the planet. But here’s something to keep in mind as you push toward instituting you global warming initiatives back home; if you don’t connect with the Walmart and McDonald’s crowd, you may find your reception…uh, kind of cool.

Some time ago I read an article about “green” marketing. It said most consumers, given a choice between a green product and a not-green one, will chose the environmentally friendly alternative, but only if it looks like a “normal” product. The towels must have bright colors, the soap should smell nice, the napkins ought to be white and soft. The researchers found that if you rolled out some kind of brown, scratchy, Dead Head hand-me-down, it just wouldn’t fly.

Makes sense. Think about the Prius. It pretty much appeared to be a regular Toyota. There were earlier versions of eco-friendly cars but nobody wanted them, because they were small, and bubble or box shaped, and even the hard core eco-crowd didn’t want to ride around in a vehicle that looked like it belonged to George Jetson. Or Gallagher.