Study: Americans Hate Faux Green Marketers

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While Americans are more than willing to forgive a company with a less-than-perfect environmental track record, 71% say they will stop buying a product if they feel they've been misled about its environmental impact, according to the latest Green Gap Trend Tracker from Cone. And 37% say they are so ticked off by the practice that it's grounds for completely boycotting the company and all its products.

Cone, a Boston-based cause-related marketing firm, says there is also a growing perception that it's tough for a company to get it right every time, with 75% saying it is okay if a given brand isn't environmentally perfect, as long as it's honest and forthcoming about its efforts.

But consumers continue to give marketers poor marks on those communication efforts, with 79% wishing there was more detail on packaging, 75% longing for companies to explain the environmental terms they use, and 59% believing that marketers shouldn't use such claims at all unless they back them up with more details and explanations.

Cone also reports that consumers continue to misunderstand the most common marketing buzzwords, such as "green" or "environmentally friendly." While 97% think they know what those phrases mean (up from 90% in Cone's 2008 survey), 41% believe these terms mean a product actually has a good or beneficial impact on the environment. Only 29% get that those phrases words mean less harmful than competing products.

Consumers are also suspicious: 57% mistrust green claims.

The survey, which included 1,035 adults, also tested three separate marketing methods, asking customers to "purchase" brands that either bore a mock certification, a vague "made with natural ingredients" claim, or an even vaguer "made with ... imagery" claim.

The certification was by far the most popular, chosen by 51% of respondents, with 51% of all respondents believing the claim was then reviewed and verified by a credible third party.

The study also shows that green concerns survived the recession. Some 39% say they think about the environmental impact of their shopping at least sometimes -- up from 36% in 2008 -- and 23% say they do so regularly (up from 21%. Only 11% say they never think about it, down from 15%. Only 8% say it's on their mind every time they shop (down from 9%.)

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