Analysis & Opinion

What does it mean to be green?

September 30, 2009 Stephen Hahn-Griffiths

New Earthkeepers OOH

Being green is not a fad – it’s now officially a trend. In the past two years the number of green-minded consumers has increased from 12% to 38% – and the overall desire to be “greener” has become a universal need with over 90% of consumers believing that “environmental responsibility” is important. By 2010 the green market is projected to reach $400 billion. Given its growing significance and relative profit potential, we dug deeper to better understand the implications of being green for marketers:

1. There Are Shades of Green
There are no green strereotypes, and the widely held belief that green means granola-chasing tree hugger is just not true. According to Earthsense, there are four distinct green consumer segments: “selectives,” “habituals,” “believers” and “enthusiasts” – each with their own unique set of varying green attitudes, characteristics and buying behaviors.

2. “Green Consumer” is an Oxymoron
Consume is the exact opposite of what a green-minded consumer tries to do – being green is driven by preserving resources, not consuming. Today, green has a double meaning with consumers looking to save the planet and save money, as they look for ways to weather the recession – especially among the “enthusiasts.”

3. It Isn’t Easy Being Green
There are significant barriers inhibiting the mainstream adoption and growth of green-products: including, perceived performance, convenience, and cost. In addition, consumers are skeptical of companies that claim to be green and they’re increasingly wary of “greenwashing.” What’s driving the consumer hesitancy is that only 2% of green products have a truly legitimate claim.

4. Don’t Call Me Green
It’s wrong to call someone that thinks and behaves green…well, green. Green has become a dirty marketing word to sell products. Green consumers prefer to be called sustainable, eco-conscious or environmentally friendly, given that’s their endgame.

What are the Implications for Marketers?

  • There’s no on one-strategy-fits-all green solution – take a targeted approach to increase green relevancy
  • It’ll take a “green plus brand benefit” approach to overcome consumer barriers to trial
  • The “greenest” segments will most likely shrug off your marketing efforts, no matter what
  • Educate to motivate, so that consumers won’t wonder about what makes your brand green
  • Be green, act green, market green, but don’t say green in your marketing