The New Pragmatic Consumer: Green = Practical

Marketers have heard a lot in the last year about the ways green consumers have scaled back to accommodate tough economic times, but a new study suggests it would be a big mistake to interpret reduced sales as reduced interest.

In fact, according to new research from GfK Roper Consulting, there's been little change in their commitment to the environment -- just a big shift in how they approach it, replacing idealism with hard-boiled pragmatism.

"Consumer commitment to green living is very stable," Tim Kenyon, senior analyst for GfK's consumer trends division, tells Marketing Daily. "But if products are too expensive, they will find other ways to express that commitment. They may buy fewer green products, but they'll do things like cut their energy costs or reduce consumption." The study finds that 60% of people now believe green products are too costly, a 6-point increase from 2006.

The recession has ushered many of these consumers from environmental altruism to a more practical approach, he says, with green purchases more likely to be driven by the desire to save money, be healthier, or get more value. They're also measuring the worth of their time differently, with 28% saying they are "too busy" to do what it takes to be green.



For marketers, that means it's essential to focus on green innovations that consumers will regard as both easy and affordable. And while the report also finds that environmental awareness is becoming more mainstream, there is also a growing cynicism about marketers in general. "They are frustrated," Kenyon says. "On one hand, they say product packaging is a leading source of information about environmental claims, and on the other they also say those claims can be confusing and misleading."

And although shoppers are expressing a greater interest in environmental purchases, especially in the CPG category, "consumers are more conscious of picking and choosing, and beginning to make trade-offs. That's true on larger purchases as well, like replacing a roof or re-carpeting the home. And that may be the beginning of the next stage of eco-consciousness -- when people begin to think long and hard about the cost and environmental benefits of one solution versus another, and even consider less consumption, overall, as an environmental option."

1 comment about "The New Pragmatic Consumer: Green = Practical ".
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  1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, November 24, 2009 at 10:09 a.m.

    Consumers seem to be evolving into more triple bottom line thinkers/purchase evaluators - as evidenced by this study and others lately. As in: "how does my purchase affect people, planet and my own practicality?" This is all the more reason brands have to meet consumers where they are in this evolution - in ways where it is clear the brands are also operating with regard to the planet and people/social implications, as well as their profits.

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