For that reason, marketers of green products are used to doing their research. They may even be inclined to think they've got a handle on their target audience and a pretty good grasp of how those consumers are going to react to their product. Not so fast ...
In the five years my company has been throwing events for major brands, we've come to realize that no matter what marketers thought they knew about their target customers -- their thoughts and behaviors, and how they would react to and connect with their product -- real life always has significant surprises and curve balls to offer up. You never know just what will inspire passionate enthusiasm, or worse, passionate loathing.
Sure, this is true for any product, but it's particularly true for green consumers, whose product and brand choices are often interwoven with personalized environmentally friendly habits, rituals and passions that can be shaped by location, lifestyle, family, age, and a wealth of other factors. Nothing reveals more about how green consumers engage with a product than to have them interact with it -- and its related branding -- in their own homes with like-minded friends and family.
So before you launch your next green marketing campaign, consider the following insights we gained from the hosts and guests of our recent house parties for a green cleaning product and a green safety brand:
Be at least as smart as your audience.
You're working with a knowledge-affluent audience, and though not every consumer will possess the same level of knowledge as the next, green customers tend to be those who have done their homework, and are willing to do more if they suspect loopholes in your claims.
Talk the talk, walk the walk.
Seems simple enough, but we're dealing with a passionate and informed audience that's sensitive to false marketing. Ensure that you only make claims you can back up. Larger CPG brands that launch green products, for instance, must maintain a level of self-awareness about the fact that while they may have one green product, or even several, in their roster, they likely have many others that aren't green at all -- not to mention a number of non-green production processes. Claims that are too broad ("We're totally green now!") can lead to criticism, whereas claims that are limited to the product at hand ("We're moving in a new direction with the environment in mind!") can lead to opportunities to build relationships and trust.
Invite your consumers in early because they will teach you.
At one party we hosted, we included a reusable spray top and provided a bottle so that guests could test it out. One of our savvier party hosts was quick to remind us that since the top had a universal screw, we didn't really need to provide them with bottles, which most consumers would already have in their homes. If only we had her insight before we sent out the party kits. The same could be said about inviting your more knowledgeable, vocal and loyal customers in early on the ideation process, to see if they can contribute to your innovation -- not only for marketing purposes, but for the improvement of your product as a whole.
Don't be afraid of green.
Marketing green products can often feel scary and daunting -- maybe because the knowledge bar is set so high -- but here's something else we've learned from house parties: consumers have good will to spare. Whatever concerns you might have about putting a big target on your brand when you start to go green, the reality is that the average consumer is working just as hard to figure out how to do the whole green thing as you are. They know it's not easy, and they're willing to recognize that steps in the right direction have value too.
Teach them things they didn't already know ... and remember that they know a lot.
Forget about pushing out your messaging when it comes to marketing green products -- your product, along with your marketing messaging, are the starting points for a conversation. Focus on benefits and share new knowledge wherever you can, but at the same time recognize that there are hundreds -- thousands -- of ways to be green and encourage consumers to share more.
Green is about community.
The green consumer is tapping into something bigger than the individual, and your marketing should, too. Your goal is not to dominate or interrupt the conversation, it's to join and contribute to it. In other words, make your brand and/or product a part of a larger discussion.
Green is local.
People in New York City do things differently than people in Denver. Don't teach people in New York how to conserve water the same way you would people in Denver. And so on ...