Dropping the “alternative”

If one out of every three Americans uses some kind of alternative medicine, why do we still call it “alternative”.

In this article, I suggest green businesses examine their messages. Today I add that you drop “alternative” unless you are targeting a true niche market.

Some people respond well to the word; people who regularly seek the unconventional or those who aren’t getting desirable results with the conventional.  

But some immediately think “quackery”. You want to stand out from the competition, but not in a freak show kind of way.

Making herbal tinctures is safe, easy and fun.

My biggest gripe with “alternative” is the complete 180 it’s taken. How did it get so twisted? Why does acupuncture, a treatment used for over 2,500 years, become a practice we suspect way more than popping pills with 2012 birth dates? Why do we hear “Hey, I’ll try ANYTHING at this point” from folks who finally decide to give this newfangled voodoo a try.

We don’t consider pills and probes snake-oil science despite our ignorance of their long-term effects and experimental roots becausethe language that surrounds them is serious, clinical jargon.  It’s gotta be legitimate because the words are so big, right?    

Organic agriculture. Additive and trans-fat free food.  Herbal medicine.  Just a few examples of old school methods of surviving and thriving marketed primarily with “alternative” branding that drives a certain audience away.    

Genetic modification, pharmaceuticals, preservatives…all new kids. They are the alternative who have quickly become the new ”normal”. Why?  

Many reasons. But in part, its language. The language we choose to describe our ideas, products or services is our responsibility. Continuing to use words like “alternative” sacrifices history. It suggests “new” and “unproven” which downplays a viable standing in the mainstream marketplace. When you rely on “alternative”, you polarize yourself and turn off potential customers or new advocates.  

You provide an option, not another.    

Reclaim the “traditional”. Remind us about the successful origins of what you offer. Find a fresh new way to let people know how your product or service is beneficially different without blatantly calling it “different”.

Check this out: Green Patriot posters reconnect our civil duty to environmental causes. Just one clever way to quit preaching to the choir and reach a wider audience.    


2 thoughts on “Dropping the “alternative”

  1. Jennifer Baker says:

    Amy, I agree! Why is native landscaping called “non-traditional” or alternative landscaping? Is planting plants that were here prior to our settling this land an alternative concept? No…it’s the right way. Genetically altered junipers sheared into ball shapes and other contortions right under our picture windows are the alternative aliens.

  2. Lori Popkewitz Alper (@groovygreenlivi) says:

    You make a great point-why is it that genetic modification, pharmaceuticals and synthetic and artificial preservatives are not considered the alternative or given some other name that indicates they are the newbies? The “alternative” options have been options throughout time. They are no longer alternatives they are quickly becoming mainstream. Thank you for creating an awareness around this issue. The next time I write about acupuncture or any form of healing I’ll think twice before referring to it as an alternative treatment.

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