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With less money to spend every month, many Americans are turning to coupons to stretch their food budget. Last weekend, I decided to join the ranks, and sat down at my kitchen table, armed with scissors and the two inserts from our Sunday paper. And started clipping away.

Coupons' Trap

I decided to separate the coupons into three piles:

Coupons that passed the test of my health conscious, green filter, and the only ones I may possibly use:

  • Minute Maid Juices, Lipton Teas, Stash Tea, EarthGrains Whole Wheat Bread, Tabasco – not a hundred percent sure about the EarthGrains Bread, I tried to check the ingredients online, without success –

The suspicious pile, coupons for products that won’t kill you, but all come with health/nutrition problems attached, to various degrees. Red flags such as too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, GMO baggage, unnecessary packaging, radiation, pesticides, excessive processing, toxic eakage from plastic linings, added chemicals, grains stripped away from their wholeness, empty calories, fried potatoes, too much red meat:

  • Progresso Chicken Broth, Green Giant Frozen Vegetables, Star Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Olives, Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend, Spice Islands Spices, Quaker Oatmeal, Fresh Express Pre-cut Salad, Del Monte Canned Fruit and Vegetables, Ragu Pasta Sauce, Skippy Peanut Butter, College Inn Broths and Stocks, Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice, Lawry’s Seasonings, Newman’s Dressings, Swiss Miss Cocoa, Bisquick Pancake Mix, Best Foods Mayonnaise, Pillsbury Dinner Rolls and Biscuits, Daisy Sour Cream, PoppyCock Nuts, Pam Spray, True North Nuts, Lipton Dinners, Kraft Salad Dressings, CountryCrock Cinnamon Apples, International House of Pancakes, Black Angus Steak House, Bakers Square Dinners, Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes, Jell-O, Planters Nuts, C&H Sugar, Tyson Fully Cooked Bacon, Fiber One Toaster Pastries, Betty Crocker Cookie Mix, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Lee Kum Kee Sauces, Hillshire Farm Cocktail Links

The obviously junky bunch:

  • Betty Crocker Frosting, Cool-Whip, Big G Kid Cereals, Chuck E Cheese Pizza and Coca Cola Drinks, White Castle Microwavable Burgers, Reddi Whip, Entenmann’s Doughnuts, Hershey’s Chocolates, Kozy Schack Desserts, M&Ms

If I had any lingering doubts about the intentions of the food industry as a whole, this little exercise put them to rest. Coupons were not created with the interest of consumers in mind. Rather they are yet another marketing tactic from consumer packaged goods manufacturers to push their highly processed foods, regardless of their actual health benefit or lack thereof.

I say, let us not fall into the coupon trap, and seek instead, other, smarter ways to save, that won’t hurt our health.

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Green demographics are hard to come by. Most of the green consumer research deals with lifestyles’ segmentation, and is not very reliable, nor actionable from a marketer or green strategist’s point of view. I found three surveys with demographic information worth looking at. All were conducted in March-April 2008, and deal with attitudes and self-reported behaviors.

First, is a Pew Survey of Americans’ attitudes towards global warming:

These results make sense, and reinforce the widespread notion of green citizens as part of the more progressive crowd of Democrat, younger, more educated folks, who live in big cities on either coast.

Second, is a Burst Media Survey of U.S. adult Internet users, asking about extent of green behavior in daily lifestyle – as published in eMarketer report:

Although the survey seems to confirm Pew findings, indicating a skew towards younger demographics, one needs to take into consideration the following two caveats: first is the fact that behaviors are self-reported, and second, as pointed out in the eMarketer writeup, ‘the vast majority of respondents across all age groups put themselves in the “somewhat” category—leaving open the possibility that different perceptions among respondents of “somewhat” and “completely” could color the survey findings’.

Third, is a poll by Harris Interactive, amongst U.S. adult Internet users, that goes deeper into specific ‘environmentally conscious activities’ – also in eMarketer report:

The Harris Poll results are further supported by an AARP/Focalyst survey, cited in eMarketer report, that 70% baby boomers use their purchasing power to buy environmentally safe brands.

Why such an apparent discrepancy between the first two surveys and the Harris Poll? Could it be that the older folks are more likely to walk the green talk, and to take actions that do matter? Or was it the way the questions were phrased? It may be that not otherwise environmentally inclined people will engage in green-like behaviors that do save them money – energy efficiency related activities -, or are perceived as better for their personal health – buying organic products -. What do you think?

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