Market Focus: Greenwashing Cycle
Spring cleaners have more products to choose from than ever before, including a whole new host of potions that (at least) promote themselves as being "green." A March 2010 report from market researcher Mintel shows that 35 percent of consumers say they will still pay more for "environmentally friendly" products, despite the recession. A similar study (from Penn Schoen Berland, Landor Associates and Burson-Marsteller) echoed the results of the Mintel survey.
However, only 3 out of every 100 U.S. consumers regularly purchase cleaning products containing all-natural or organic ingredients, despite the more than 50 percent who say they are concerned about the safety of chemicals in household cleaners, according to Datamonitor. The April 2010 study from the independent business analyst found that this gap is partly due to the skepticism that exists regarding the efficacy claims of natural products.
"Consumers said natural ingredients were very important to their purchasing decisions and they also stated their concerns about the chemicals in standard cleaners," says Datamonitor analyst Katrina Diamonon. "It would therefore be legitimate to assume these shoppers would frequently buy natural products, but in reality they don't."
This comes as Datamonitor figures reveal that consumers just aren't convinced by the natural alternatives. Consumers in the United States are undecided when it comes to the credibility of natural cleaning products, with 22 percent believing these cleaners are as effective as standard products, compared to 25 percent who didn't think these claims were at all credible.
The influx of green cleaning products is an evolution and a result of awareness and lifestyle change, says Kelly Parriott, Rally Marketing Group's executive vice president of marketing services. "It is important to consider awareness vs. advocacy," Parriott tells OMMA. "Most consumers are aware these products are better for the environment, and the way of the future. Resistance will come into play on older consumer segments and middle boomers, who have concerns about the ability for these products to fight today's germs and bacteria. Green-cleaning-product marketers should focus on education and opportunities to talk directly to consumers as a way of converting the large number of consumers still leery of change."
Sales of natural household cleaners hit $298 million for the 52 weeks ending March 20, up 2.7 percent from the previous 12 months, according to SPINS, a research firm focused on the natural-products industry. (SPINS tracks sales at natural and conventional food, drug and general merchandise retailers, excluding Walmart.)
So what are companies doing to capitalize on this green-eyed monster?
Wash with Like Colors
P&G's current "Future Friendly" campaign touts both the environmental and financial benefits of products such as Tide Coldwater detergent, which reduces the toll on utility bills from heating washer water. The consumer products giant also is giving coupons for its green products, and pledges to reach 50 million households with educational information.
A full marketing launch kicked off in late March. In addition to TV ads and an extensive social networking and consumer engagement component, more than 15,000 retail locations will participate in the initial phase of Future Friendly. Future Friendly-labeled products began hitting the shelves in early April.
In-store communication includes branded floor stands holding Future Friendly products, as well as shelf strips and wobblers. The marketing program also includes national TV ads, social media, the launch of the futurefriendly.com Web site, a multimedia educational content partnership with National Geographic, and coupons in P&G's brandSaver.
In support of the national launch of the marketing program, P&G and Ipsos Public Affairs released findings from the "Consumer Conservation Survey" which shows that about 74 percent of consumers say they would switch to another brand if it helped them conserve resources without having to pay more. About 37 percent say the reason they don't lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle is a lack of enough information about what to do. And 58 percent say they would be at least very likely to change the way they perform daily chores if it helped them reduce waste, save energy and save water at home.
P&G says the goal of the "Future Friendly" strategy is to make it easy for consumers to find and use products that help save energy and water, and reduce waste. P&G will identify such products with Future Friendly hangtags and, eventually, seals on product packaging. To qualify for the Future Friendly designation, products must provide "measurable and meaningful" savings in one of three areas: energy, waste and water. About one dozen products or brand franchises currently meet the criteria. They include Tide Coldwater, and Pampers Cruisers Dry Max, which are more absorbent and 20 percent thinner than regular Pampers, resulting in less environmental waste.
Queen of Clean
Business mega-mogul and TV host Martha Stewart is throwing her hat into the eco-friendly home-cleaning products ring with the announcement of "Martha Stewart Clean."
The product line, consisting of 10 eco-friendly products for laundry, kitchen, bath and general cleaning, is being developed and marketed by the Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (which also owns such brands as Heather's Naturals, Avalon Organics and Alba Botanica).
The Home Depot was the first to carry the new "Clean" collection in January, with each bottle being marked with the chain's Eco Options label. Since then, other retailers to jump on board are Giant Eagle Supermarkets, Publix, Fresh Direct and Fairway Market. Amazon also sells the line.
Marketing has included a dedicated Web site that features a video with the homemaking diva explaining how the products came about. Consumers are invited to sign up to receive the latest news, information and product offers via email, including local retail availability, special offers, and tips for keeping their home clean and healthy.
Shoots and Ladders
One of the green granddaddies, if not the great-granddaddy, is Seventh Generation. But its marketing is definitely not stuck in 1988, when the Burlington, Vt.-based company first launched.
The company has an active customer-relations program, including a Web site with forums and an e-newsletter. Consumers join what is called "Seventh Generation Nation" and in return get coupons and other news sent to them on a weekly basis. In January, the green pioneer launched a campaign themed "Protect Planet Home." The TV, print and online ads focus on Seventh Generation's role in helping people protect their families from hazardous chemicals.
While the company has a loyal following of long-time consumers (its Facebook fan page had more than 73,000 fans at press time) research shows that nine out of 10 consumers don't know the brand, even though it's now available at Target, says Kristen Deshaies, senior marketing director at Seventh Generation.
That's why educating consumers about the brand in general is so much of what they do, she says. "When people understand how long we've been at this, and that it's everything we do, not just select products, there's a lot of trust that comes with that," Deshaies adds.
The campaign focuses on the revolution consumers have been leading to replace unhealthy and hazardous products in their homes.