Help Consumers Share Responsibility

Tom's of Maine can make the toothpaste more natural, but it can't force consumers to turn the water off when they brush. Coke can make the bottles recyclable, but only consumers can drop them in the blue bin. Sun Chips can make the bags compostable, but only consumers can see that they get to a composting pile instead of a trash can.

Communications can fill this gap. With lifecycle risks escalating over time, green marketers must now educate their consumers on how to use and dispose of their products responsibly. And empirical evidence suggests consumers are willing to listen to these messages. Use the following tested strategies to engage your consumers.

Provide feedback.
The now-familiar dashboard feature on Toyota's Prius provides real-time information on the fuel efficiency being attained by the electric motor and combustion engine. Prius owners report trying to best their previous mileage achievements on successive tries, and they even try to beat each other.

Use peer pressure.
The software company OPower provides electric utilities with software that helps provide comparative information on electricity usage. The program measures efficiency by sending customers "smiley faces" when their performance exceeds that of neighbors. This simple software was responsible for generating sustained reductions of energy usage by 2% in a 2008 test by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

Make it fun.
Incentives and rewards can help, too. RecycleBank, for one, does a fine job of educating consumers through the use of games. Smartphones are also making new information accessible to consumers. Phone applications that check a product's eco-credentials are becoming especially popular, turning shopping into a new educational experience.

Make the intangible tangible.
Motivate consumers to use and dispose of products more responsibly by using compelling visuals to better communicate their impacts. Procter & Gamble produces a chart that shows the energy impacts throughout various lifecycle stages for several product categories, including laundry detergent, shampoos and diapers, among others.

It demonstrates that the key energy-related impact of laundry detergent is not related to the production process or supply chain transportation; the main impact is the energy it takes to heat the water. Such a visual, combined with additional information -- let's say costs and climate change impacts -- could be instrumental in getting consumers to turn the dial down to cold.

1 comment about "Help Consumers Share Responsibility ".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from, July 20, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.

    Making consumers more conscious of the consequences of their behavior no matter where they are - at home or work or in their community is what the world needs NOW. Excellent article and trust these ideas and actions are just the beginning.

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