This is an excerpt from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding
By Jacquelyn A. Ottman
- Green is mainstream. Not too long ago, just a small group of deep green consumers existed. Today, 83% of consumers – representing every generation, from Baby Boomers to Millennials and Gen Ys – are some shade of green. Moreover, there are now finely defined segments of green consumers.
- Green is cool. Once a faddish preoccupation of the fringe, green is not only mainstream, it’s chic. In fact, green consumers are early adopters and leaders who influence purchasing behavior. Celebrities and other cool types generally are espousing green causes. People show off (and self-actualize) by tooling around in a Toyota Prius (or soon, we predict, in a Nissan LEAF electric), and carry cloth shopping bags to look the part.
- Greener products work equally or better – and are often worth a premium price. Thanks to advances in technology, we’ve come a long way since the days when greener products gathered dust on health
food store shelves because they didn’t work as well and were not a good value. Organics, hybrid cars, and safer cleaning products now command a price premium.
- Green inspires innovative products and services that can result in better consumer value, enhanced brands, and a stronger company. Savvy managers no longer consider the environment to be a
burden that represents added cost and overhead – but an investment that can pay back handsomely.
- Values guide consumer purchasing. Historically, consumers bought solely on price, performance, and convenience. But today, how products are sourced, manufactured, packaged, disposed of – and even such social aspects as how factory and farm workers are treated – all matter.
- A life-cycle approach is necessary. Single attributes such as recyclable, organic, or energy-efficient matter greatly, but don’t mean a product is green overall. Recycled products still create waste, organic strawberries can travel thousands of miles, and CFLs contain mercury. So a more thorough, life-cycle or carbon-based approach to greening is necessary.
- Manufacturer and retailer reputation count now more than ever. In addition to looking for trusted brand names on supermarket shelves, consumers are now flipping over packages, saying, “Who makes this brand? Did they produce this product with high environmental and social standards?”
- Save me! Scrap the images of planets! Bag the daisies! Nix the babies! Even the greenest consumers no longer buy products just to “save the planet.” Today’s consumers buy greener brands to help protect their health, save money, or because they simply work better. That’s why products such as organics, natural personal care and pet care, and energy-efficient products are leading the way in sales.
- Businesses are their philosophies. It used to be that companies were what they made. International Business Machines. General Foods. General Motors. Now, businesses and brands are what they stand for. Method. Starbucks. Timberland.
- Sustainability represents an important consumer need, and is now an integral aspect of product quality. Green is no longer simply a market position. Products need to be green. Brands need to be socially responsible. Period.
- The greenest products represent new concepts with business models with significantly less impact. If we simply keep greening up the same old “brown” products we’ve been using forever, we’re never going to get to sustainability. With time running out, we’ve got to “leap” to service replacements for products, and adopt entirely new ways of doing business.
- Consumers don’t necessarily need to own products; services can meet their needs, perhaps even better. Consumers historically met their needs by owning products, but concepts like Zipcar and ebooks are starting to prove that utility and service are what really matters.
- The brands consumers buy and trust today educate and engage them in meaningful conversation through a variety of media, especially via websites and online social networks. Talking “at” consumers through traditional media and paid advertising can’t build loyalty among empowered consumers in a connected world.
- Green consumers are strongly influenced by the recommendations of friends and family, and trusted third parties. With rampant cynicism about traditional forms of advertising and a backlash in place against perceived greenwashing, savvy marketers leverage purchase influencers and third parties like NGOs and especially eco-labelers.
- Green consumers trust brands that tell all. BP, ExxonMobil, and SIGG learned this lesson the hard way. It’s no longer enough to have a well-known name. Today’s brands become trusted by practicing “radical transparency,” disclosing the good – and the bad.
- Green consumers don’t expect perfection. Just like there’s no more whitest whites, there’s no greenest of the green. Consumers expect that you’ll set high goals (i.e., perform beyond mere compliance), keep improving, and report on progress.
- Environmentalists are no longer the enemy. Recognizing the power of the marketplace to effect change, many environmental advocates willingly partner with industry, offering useful guidance and expertise.
- Nearly everyone is a corporate stakeholder. No longer confined to just customers, employees, and investors, publics of all stripes are now corporate stakeholders: environmentalists, educators, and children – even the unborn.
- Authenticity. It’s not enough to slap on a recycling logo or make a biodegradability claim. Brands viewed as the most genuine integrate relevant sustainability benefits into their products. That’s why HSBC and Stonyfield Farm aim to reduce the carbon impacts of their operations.
- Keep it simple. Plato was an environmentalist: “Simplicity is elegance.” Today’s consumers are cutting out the needless purchases, and getting rid of the gadgets and gizmos that don’t add value to their lives. That’s why they are migrating to brands that help express these values – Method, Starbucks, Timberland. It’s just that simple.
Jacquelyn A. Ottman is the author of The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding , as well as previous books including Green Marketing: Opportunity for Innovation, and Green Marketing: Challenges & Opportunities for the New Marketing Age. She blogs at http://www.greenmarketing.com/blog