A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research, confirmed that, despite efforts by various groups, we’ll be holding our breath for a long time if we expect government to regulate responsible consumption on a large-scale basis. In the meantime, growing a green business, by marketing to mainstream consumers, means selling the personal benefits of going green.
As Ted Page mentioned in his post last week, “In a recent survey of American consumer attitudes, ‘green’ came in dead last on the list of valuable brand attributes.” Much of this perceived lack of interest in green products can be construed as poor communication on the part of green businesses. It’s a classic marketing paradox – marketers selling product benefits that are meaningless to the target consumer. It happens all the time, sometimes with disastrous results. (Think Microsoft Vista, which fixed all of the problems techies had with the previous operating system, but made consumers’ lives more difficult.)
While deep green marketers value the sustainable lifestyle for its contribution to a healthy planet, marginally green consumers value sustainability for what it does for them. And so, marketing green products effectively means tying responsible consumption to clear consumer benefits.
For many on the path toward a sustainable lifestyle, that means highlighting or including features that provide personal satisfaction. Health, convenience and child safety rank high on consumers’ lists of important benefits, but need to be communicated without a long and lengthy education process. This is where non-GMO products tend to run into trouble. Explaining why exactly GMOs are unhealthy while easy to understand for those involved in the movement, can take far too long to explain to the uninitiated.
Instead, green marketers need to reach out to light green consumers with easy-to-understand explanations and a simple message. This can most easily be done by working with light green consumers in the brand messaging stage. Start by determining your consumer’s alternatives in the mainstream category – gas-guzzling cars or sugar-laden cereal or chemically laden laundry soap. Reach out to leading voices on social media or put together focus groups of consumers uneducated about your product. Learn from them how they perceive the benefits your product offers.
Their lack of interest may surprise you, but will start you down the path to understanding how you can sell responsible consumption, with or without government support.