A Few Thoughts on “Green Marketing”

“Green marketing” has become a hot topic, and as ever with the fashionable, a lot of nonsense is being talked.  The number of myths in this area is astonishing.

We offer a few thoughts worth we believe remembering:

1. “18 % of consumers are motivated by green issues.” This is not true – all our work points to this number being significantly under 10%.

There is a great distinction between what people say and what they do.  This distinction between expressive opinion and instrumental behaviour may be the preserve of pollsters, but it becomes very real for companies offering the products people say they want.

2. Whatever the number is, bear in mind that the evidence seems to suggest that the majority of this group is driven by issues of self-esteem, only a minority is committed to environmentalism. Marketing to these two groups, as any marketeer knows, is very different.

Large scale marketing to the image-driven can undermine communication to the committed – it is seen as ‘greenwash’.

3. The most successful ‘green marketing’ offers other advantages to consumers – this can be cost, convenience, or an attribute targeted to self-esteem above. The success rate for ‘green only’ drops significantly. The success rate when other attributes are sacrificed drops even lower.

4. All of the above being said, there are significant opportunities in this area for a majority of companies. However, these are often not the opportunities that companies think. Working through the issue more carefully (preferably with our help!) can show how to attract the confidence of the committed, leading to a sustainable programme for marketing to the esteem-driven.  Ultimately the aim must be to ‘go mainstream’, where producers without the green credentials are forced out of the market by the ‘gatekeepers’.  Or, today’s differentiator is tomorrow’s entry point.

Moral of the story – if you want to go to war with your competitors on green grounds, make sure you have the ‘ordnance’ for it!

February 2010