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Archive for the ‘Green Marketing’ Category

GreenBiz reports on a recently released joint study from Yankelovich and Getty Images, the ‘MAP Report 2: Aspirational Environmentalism‘:

Firms seeking to advertise their green credentials should shun generic images associated with climate change such as polar bears and melting ice floes, according to a major new survey of green advertisements and consumer attitudes.

The study from picture agency Getty Images assessed 2,500 advertising campaigns from last year for its annual “What Makes a Picture” (MAP) report and concluded that many of the conventional images used to promote green campaigns were in danger of becoming visual clichés.

“When it comes to the visual language of the environment, we are in danger of killing it as a meaningful symbol with visual cliché,” said Lewis Blackwell, creative advisor at Getty Images. “The first lesson we must learn in order to grab any attention is to make Death to Environmentalism our mantra and kill off the clichés of ecology.”

Rebecca Swift, global creative planning director at Getty Images, warned that pictures of ice caps and polar bears in particular “will not resonate with consumers in the future.”

How to talk to people about green stuff

The report recommends that advertisers instead embrace more localized images that are relate more closely to consumers’ experience of the environment. “Whatever the product, the closer to home you can pitch the communication the better the opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of consumers to green products and behaviors,” it claims. “This is probably not good news for communicators who have been enjoying economies of scale in recent years by running global campaigns.”

It also advises advertisers to challenge consumers’ negative attitudes towards the environment head-on, arguing that campaigns should not shy away from addressing issues such as consumer indifference, concerns over greenwashing and resentment about the commercialization of a social cause.

These are important findings. At the same time, the study does not tell us anything we could not infer from previous research, and also good marketing practice. Advertisers and marketers need to empathize with their target ‘consumers’ – I use this term reluctantly, as I believe we should increasingly relate to people as citizens instead of consumers. Empathizing means acknowledging the reality of where people are:

  1. a combination of apathy, frustration, resentment, some of it that can be linked to Steven Running theory of Climate Grief
  2. cynicism and doubt bred by experiences of greenwashing
  3. guilt from being asked to make life changes that are impossible to achieve, given present solutions
  4. a thirst for information
  5. a physical reality linked to place, time, and personal experience; make it personal, make it local.

Practically, this means giving people solutions to real problems, not trying to force upon them products and messages decided by wannabe green marketers. The ‘Green‘ magic can only go so far.

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When you think about it, marketing is really simple: to offer products and services that solve people’s real problems. If it is so straight forward, then, why is it that the market place keeps getting flooded with new products without any real benefits to the consumers? I call that phenomenon, marketers’ amnesia. Nowhere is marketers’ amnesia more in display than with the so called ‘green market’ . Here to remind us once more of that important marketing premise, are some excerpts from a recent article from Steven Bishop, Sustainability Domain Lead at IDEO, in the Harvard Business Review.

It seems so logical on the face of it. A company wishing to go green should focus on the green consumer, right? Not so. Marketing to the green consumer has proved difficult, even downright dangerous, for companies large and small. Here’s why.

Established companies fear alienating their base of mainstream consumers by appealing to the green consumer, and rightly so. The majority of consumers seek to satisfy their personal needs before considering those of the planet. Green for green’s sake products often don’t meet the basic needs that most people require from their products. Take hemp clothing, for example. If green for green’s sake products could go mainstream, we’d all be wearing hemp sweaters and be happy about it.

Small, streamlined green brands that truly appeal to the environmentalist consumer can’t reach the mainstream. Those companies get stuck in a green ghetto—virtuous, but limited in scope.

The result is that most companies are stuck somewhere in the middle—and that turns out to be a very dangerous place indeed. We’ve all watched a company take a traditional product and tout its green virtues. When the approach doesn’t work all that well, they simply take out a bigger megaphone. Hence the green-washing epidemic we have today.

So while the traditional marketing answer to the question, Should we market to the green consumer? has been yes, the better answer is this: Instead of focusing on a green niche, focus on green behaviors that everyone can aspire to.

When we helped Shimano, an international manufacturer of bike parts, create a new bike platform, we didn’t focus on cycling enthusiasts—the biggest segment in this market—or on the green niche. Instead we focused on a growth strategy with a “green outcome”—more people riding bikes and enjoying it. As a result, we turned our attention to the 161 million Americans who don’t ride at all.

Our work with Shimano yielded two insights: 1) everyone fondly remembers biking as a kid; 2) highly technical sports bikes and lycra-clad salespeople in bike stores put off would-be everyday riders. So Shimano pitched a concept bike to manufacturers that was intuitive and inviting. Mechanical components were hidden, handlebars were stripped of complex controls, and pedals, were well, just pedals.

They called it the “Coasting” bike. Nothing to learn, just jump on and go, like when you were a kid. That’s what gets people riding.

So where’s the environmental story here? Well, there isn’t an explicit one. Shimano is addressing a human problem, not an environmental one. By seeking the truth about what really matters to people and creating a great experience for them, the company is appealing to a mass market increasingly aware of our impact on the planet. Coasting bikes tell the green story implicitly by inviting people to engage in new, positive behaviors—like reducing greenhouse gases by pedaling—instead of driving.

For a company that wants to go green, then, the green consumer niche is almost irrelevant. I’m reminded of HBS professor Ted Levitt‘s old marketing axiom that people who buy drills don’t need drills; they need holes. Consumers—whether they are green or mainstream—don’t simply want green products, they want solutions to their day-to-day problems that also make sense for our environment.

The bottom line: Marketing needs to define what sustainability means for their company and then decide how to express those values in their offerings. Companies should stop trying to appeal to green consumers by building green myths into the products they have and start creating something real—products that tell their environmental story for them.

Bottom line is, green marketers, beware of marketing amnesia. To help, I suggest you print a copy of Ted Levitt‘s classic article, Marketing Myopia, and that you read it again every time you think of launching a new product.

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Talk to anybody working in the business of green, and chances are, you will have heard the word more than once. Greenwashing. It’s bad, and according to a recent study by the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice, almost everyone in corporate America is guilty of it. Getting them to admit is another story. I especially loved the senior moment of the GM guy in this one interview:

TerraChoice‘s made it easy for you. It has categorized greenwashing into six major sin categories:

Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off:

‘By suggesting a product is “green” based on a single environmental attribute or an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without attention to other important, or perhaps more important, environmental issues.’

Sin of No Proof:

Any environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information, or by a reliable third-party certification.’

Sin of Vagueness:

Every claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the intended consumer.’

Sin of Irrelevance:

‘Making an environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant and unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products.’

Sin of Lesser of Two Evils:

“Green” claims that may be true within the product category, but that risk distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.’

Sin of Fibbing:

‘Making environmental claims that are simply false.’

And guess what? Now you get a chance to become a part of the greenwashing police and to rate ads on a new web site, Greenwashing Index.

 

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Thanks to Craig Nelson, over at World Changing for alerting me to the latest GFK Roper Poll on Americans’ Green or Environmentally Responsible New Year’s Resolutions for 2008:

  1. 49% of all American adults say they will make a green New Year’s resolution this year.
  2. Reducing household energy usage was cited as the most likely to be undertaken in 2008, cited by 75% of respondents.
  3. It was followed by recycling more (74%).
  4. And reducing the use of harmful household chemicals (66%).
  5. Carrying fabric bags to the supermarket (42%) and reducing one’s “carbon footprint” (43%) were the least frequently cited.
  6. The survey found that, in general, the more involved or personally demanding an environmental responsibility, the lower the response.
  7. 9 in 10 Americans say it’s important to take actions in their personal lives (recycling, giving blood, conserving energy, etc.) to address social issues, but not nearly as many are actually doing so. We want to help, but between family and work, we’re stretched thin. The easier we can make it for individuals to act on their good intentions, the better. There’s a lesson in that for businesses looking to leverage the growing green sensibility.
  8. 58% of Americans 18 to 24 said they would make a green New Year’s resolution for 2008. That compares with 50% of Americans 50 to 64 and 40% of Americans 65+.
  9. 31% admitted to feeling guilty in recent years about not living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Women (36%) are more likely than men (26%) to feel “green guilt.

This is very interesting, and has obvious implications for the green marketer:

  1. Target women
  2. Go for the younger crowd
  3. Make it easier on people
  4. Hot areas: lower energy use, recycling, natural products that are free of harmful chemicals.

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According to the updated Green Brands 2.5 Research, there is an up tick in purchase intent for most consumers when it comes to green products and services, particularly those that are relatively simple to implement such as installing environmentally friendly lighting and upgrading to energy-saving appliances.

Other attitudinal shifts worth noting:

  • 90% of Americans agree that there are important green issues and problems, and 82% believe it is important for companies to implement environmentally-friendly practices.
  • Consumers perceive green as a direct and positive reflection of their social status, in addition to recognizing its broader value to society and the world.
  • Bright Greens remain sad and skeptical about the future outlook and one in three feel anger about the situation. They care most about the environment, animal rights and education.
  • One in five Dull Greens is satisfied with the current state of the environment. Dull Greens prioritize crime reduction, religious organizations and health care as their main causes.

As encouraging as these findings maybe overall, one should not forget the difference between absolute versus relative data. While it may be true that the majority of Americans care about the environment, voters’ polling data shows that green is not a priority, relative to other issues such as the war in Iraq, immigration, national security, jobs/unemployment, health care, and education.

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Market researchers are all trying to classify consumers’ attitudes into various shades of green. And using different words to describe similar categories of green consumers. Where the Green Gauge Report sees consumers split between, True Blue Greens, Green Back Greens, Sprouts, Grousers, and Apathetics, the folks at PSB research propose instead a different segmentation in their Green Brands 2.0 Study:

  • Bright Greens (34%), instead of True Blue Greens (30%)

The most skeptical and the most convinced that things are going in the wrong direction (a “bunker” mentality). Therefore they are the most likely to demand “green” steps on the part of companies – and at the same time the most likely to complain about these companies not taking green far enough.
These are, in the language of a political campaign, the key “swing” voters. They are younger and energized – the most likely to be speaking out, writing letters to the paper, etc., about global warming and government and corporate environmental responsibility. Because they feel things are going so badly, they raise the bar enormously high. Their touchstone is pure green, not shades of green. They look to Greenpeace and other environmental NGO’s for in-depth information about all green issues, including consumer products.
At the same time, however, the bright greens still need to buy groceries, household products, appliances, and cars. Within categories where there are greener choices, they will help anoint the best of breed. They are both your Opinion Leaders in the category and your most severe critics.

  • Green Motivated (10%), instead of Green Back Greens (10%)

They want green, but are optimistic about the way things are going. They are likely to accept corporate “green” programs at face value and as a step in the right direction.

  • Green Hypocrites (26%), instead of Sprouts (26%)

They like to talk about green, but don’t want to go out of their way – not even slightly out of their way for it. Slap a green smiley face on it and they’re on board.

  • Green Ignorants (19%) and Dull Greens (11%), instead of Grousers (15%), and Apathetics (18%)

They are simply unengaged in the issue. Green isn’t particularly motivating, but it’s not a negative either.

Personally, I find this second classification more relevant to how I think as a consumer. More straightforward, and easier to grasp.

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Featured on TechCrunch, Carbon Rally, the latest player in green social networking:

CarbonRally applies gaming and social networking concepts to environmental activism by challenging participants to take positive steps against carbon emissions. Boston based CarbonRally offers a series of carbon reducing challenges, such as not drinking bottled water, dumping shopping bags and leaving your car at home, whereby users can compete against others to become the most carbon friendly participant. Current users include Google’s offices in Boston and Pittsburgh who are openly aiming to beat one and other. The competition is all in good fun with no prizes offered, however CarbonRally is looking at corporate sponsorship of challenges in the future. If you’re passionate about carbon emissions, CarbonRally providers a fun and friendly forum from which you can join others in saving the world.

This is a great example of well understood green psychology translated into a brilliantly executed business idea. Americans love to compete, and play. Take those traits, apply them to real life micro-communities, with a twist of corporate pressure, and you’ve got a great recipe for inducing positively green behavioral changes. Fundamentally, human beings are pleasure seeking creatures. Let’s not forget that basic psychological truth, in our efforts to get people to green their lifestyles.

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