Commentary

How To: Shift Sustainability From Exclusive To Easy

There's a "green gap" that exists between what consumers say and what they actually do when it comes to sustainable living. There's a certain stigma that comes with being green, and because of that, there's also exclusivity. People around the world want to say that they're green, but because of the green gap, aren't sure how to actually achieve it.

In order to close the gap, marketers need to figure out how to change the stigma and allow green purchasing practices to enter the mainstream population. Here's how to start (tips aided by research from OgilvyEarth):

Make products common: The middle-class majority is not looking to set itself apart from everyone else. In contrast, it simply wants to fit in. When it comes to driving mass behavior change, marketers need to restrain the urge to make going green feel cool or different, and instead make it normal and easy-to-access.

Bring down the costs: The high prices of many green products suggest an attempt to limit or discourage more sustainable choices. Eliminating the price barrier negates the notion that green products are not for normal citizens. The more people go green the better, so do what it takes to make green products more affordable and, therefore, accessible.

Don't fancy up products: Just because a product is green doesn't mean it has to look like it was made of leaves. In order for green products to sell, they must emphasize the most compelling personal benefits, just as non-green products do.

Make sure eco-friendly equals male-friendly: Going along with the above, sustainability doesn't have to appear feminine. Be sure to keep in mind what works with other male-dominated products. Think about alternative fuel vehicles -- continue to highlight the speed and aerodynamics of the cars; don't focus too much on their (typically) smaller size.

Remember, pleasure over praise: Most green products aim at people's altruism rather than their innate desire for pleasure and enjoyment. To do so is to deny the truth about humans and their natural priorities. So, even though being green means helping the environment and making the world a better place, don't forget to highlight that it can be beneficial to each individual as well.

Green standards and certifications will change the competitive landscape of industries and the players within them. It's not just about what you make anymore, but about how (and where) you make it. The desire to go green forces companies to reinvent products, services, and business models in ways we've never seen before. The good news is that everyone seems to be trying to be some shade of green, and green today means so many different things to different people. As marketers, we have been responding to the changing marketplace by giving everything from consumer products to automobiles a green makeover.

At the end of the day, we need to be careful not to over-complicate the practice of being green. Being green can really be as simple as walking instead of driving; as remembering to separate trash and plastic bottles; as bringing a reusable coffee mug to work each day.

1 comment about "How To: Shift Sustainability From Exclusive To Easy ".
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  1. Rebecca Gournay from Graine de Vie/(seed) Body Care, September 16, 2011 at 5:31 p.m.

    Excellent article. As more mainstream consumers start converting to healthier alternatives (natural), they want to feel the approachability -- that it is for them. We can't treat the "new" converting consumers like the early adopters -- they are motivated in different ways -- we need to make our better choices welcoming for them. Thanks!

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