“Going green” is being touted loud and clear these days. However, according to a study conducted by Cone Communications earlier this year, people aren’t so quick to buy into products’ claims of “greenness.” In fact, consumer trust of green claims has decreased by 12% since 2008. Surveys have shown that consumers are increasingly turned off because of the price, skepticism, and confusion that surround green products.
So, how can brands to market themselves as “green” and have people believe what they are saying? Here are some thought starters:
1. Make consumers “feel the green”
Fostering an emotional bond between brand and consumer is one way to create additional value for a product/service. This may be one reason why green brands can be so powerful in markets; they prompt purchases based on emotion at least as much as those based on rational purposes. Think about it; when one believes that one is making a tangible difference on social or environmental criteria, this “feel good/do good-er” emotion and belief strengthens one’s commitment to a brand’s products/services.
2. Create a direct link between consumer and cause
When people believe that they actually can affect a social or environmental cause with their immediate action, they can bond with the brand. It can be a matter of providing information at the point of purchase, so that buyers are educated about the effects the company has on its chosen influence. For instance, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. -- recognized for its award-winning coffees, innovative Keurig Single Cup brewing technology, and socially responsible business practices -- supports local and global communities by offsetting 100% of its direct greenhouse gas emissions, investing in sustainably-grown coffee, and donating at least 5% of its pre-tax profits to social and environmental projects. It makes this publicly known on sales and press materials, so people are assured of where their money is going -- not solely into a fresh brew, but towards a fresher environment.
3. Employ and empower your consumers
Another powerful way to create emotional ties to people is to actually bring them into the process of guiding benefits to social and environmental causes. The idea is to authorize your consumers to take charge and direct which environmental or social cause should benefit from their purchases. For example, the CarbonFund Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that provides carbon offsetting and greenhouse gas reduction options to individuals, businesses and organizations. The organization purchases and retires certified carbon offsets on behalf of its donor, so that when a consumer purchases carbon offsets from the CarbonFund website, a prompt cues them to select the type of project that will be used to create the offset. The consumer selects validated renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects supported by the CarbonFund. For instance, if a person selects “reforestation,” their funds will be used to plant a new stand of trees.
Employing and empowering your consumers in these ways can create an emotional bond (especially when the consumer receives notice of the exact number of trees planted for their particular offset purchase). The interaction works to forge an emotional link by involving people directly and specifically. Such consumers are also more likely to participate in surveys and provide other information that allows a brand to serve them with greater specificity and understand their motivations. As in other settings, this consumer intelligence is highly prized and can lead to a competitive advantage for a socially or environmentally mission-driven company.
In general, green consumers are becoming savvier about brands’ claims. So, brands, rather than treating them as sedentary targets, stir up their emotions and involve them in your cause.