The Awareness Customer Is A Revolution

Consumers' pursuit of economic and environmental sustainability combined with their growing use of new media are creating a marketing revolution. Evidence of this emerging revolution is now being documented by research tracking consumer procurement of green products and consumer adoption of new media. Gail Research documents that 85% of Americans have purchased a green product. Its finding supports the J.D. Power & Associates report tracking an unprecedented shift in web "conversations" from the question of "Is Global Warming real" to "What do we do about it."

The consumer adoption of new media is seeing similar dramatic change. The 2009 Cone Consumer New Media Study documents that new media are now being used by over half of Americans. And among those Americans using new media, almost 80% interact with a brand and/or company. Ninety-five percent of new media users believe a company should have a presence there.

This convergence of consumer trends in adoption of sustainability and new media is defining a new customer class, the Awareness Customer. This is an important distinction from classification of consumers into shades of "green."

For example, the Awareness Customer is defined by the three distinct leadership groups:

  • CEOs are performance-driven and have set goals for tracking and reducing emissions.
  • Concerned Caregivers define sustainability as wellness and are keenly sensitized to issues of diet, health care, the economy and the environment.
  • The Millennial Generation sees sustainability as its future and is the only Awareness Customer who will pay more to buy green.

Among Awareness Customers, the Concerned Caregivers and the Millennial Generation are moving through a self-directed path that uses social media in a starfish problem-solving process of learning, experimentation and then procurement. The phrase I found in a Web 2.0 conversation that captures the essence of this process is "Know it, Embrace it."

The manifestations of "Know it, Embrace it" are complex, evolving and growing. For example, a CEO of a green retail website shared with me an estimate that there are 20 million "Mommy Bloggers" posting their feelings, actions and observations across the fullest range of wellness issues. "Is this a marketing opportunity or just spontaneous writing therapy," was a key question this CEO raised, where the answer is still emerging.

My anecdotal example is a woman I surveyed walking out of a Target store after buying her first bottle of Green Works. She bought it because of a social pressure to "do something." Her purchase was an impulse buy, driven by the labeling. She was conflicted on whether she had made the right purchase and volunteered she was going to use the Internet to learn more. She listed "diet" and "organic" as other issues of concern regarding what she and her family should be eating. She left the parking lot driving a full-size Jaguar toward her home located in an upscale community of large homes.

So how do you market to the Awareness Customer? The successful strategies I see emerging combine competitive pricing, a "Prove It, Conclusively" branding strategy and "Know it, Embrace it" marketing to create The Secret Green Sauce for growing revenues and brand equity. And for the first time since I began tracking this space, I can now point to actual businesses across market segments who are harvesting green revenue growth, enhanced brand equity and profits.

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5 comments about "The Awareness Customer Is A Revolution ".
  1. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc , November 18, 2009 at 2:51 p.m.

    It looks like people maybe turning the corner on sampling green products. If you’re going to buy them anyway, why not save up to 40% on Eco-friendly cleaning products. http://bit.ly/1MNNGB

  2. Roger Wilson from The Conference Department, Inc. , November 18, 2009 at 3:01 p.m.

    Is there any evidence in any category that "green choices" by consumers are actually reducing pollution or its rate of growth? As a consumer I look at most of this stuff as having a very modest impact if any but I do see many more people buying local vegetables and carrying reusable shopping bags. Cost and actual product benefit to the user seem to me to be the most reliable drivers of behaviour. The shopping bags have the benefit of announcing that "I'm cool" as the shoppers load them into their Suburus.

  3. Megan Esteves from Regan Communications Group , November 18, 2009 at 4:59 p.m.

    The concept of the Awareness Consumer is a good one. People are certainly thinking more about their role in conserving the planet and want to appear informed, but I think the best advice in your book, The Secret Green Sauce, is to Align Value with Values. At this point, there are few people willing to pay MORE to help the environment, but who wouldn't buy a green product that cost the same or less than one that isn't green? If a green product is affordable AND can save you money in the long run, even better! Pricing is the first hurdle. Until your product is priced competitively, it won't have mass appeal.

  4. Bill Roth from NCCT , November 21, 2009 at 1:25 p.m.

    Hi Megan and Roger. Thanks for the comments!

    Roger, the evidence is pretty strong that green consumer choices do make a difference. For example, on average it takes 1500 miles for processed food to reach your store or fast food restaurant. That is one major environmental advantage to buying local foods, and if they are organic, then there is the additional savings in terms of carbon based fertilizers. And in The Secret Green Sauce I profile a HEALTHY fast food restaurant that is achieving year over year revenue increases while 3 competitors went out of business. So The Secret Green Sauce works for the environment, the consumer and it makes money!

    And I like this intuitive description of the plastic bag, use it for 30 minutes, lasts 100 years!

    But Megan's point is the most dealing. Its all about price. Green entrepreneurs are figuring out how to gain pricing advantage by aligning value with values. This makes going green the "cost less, mean more" solution. And when we reach a cost less, mean more critical mass then we will be restoring our environment, the economy and our jobs.

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