At a time when many people in the U.S. still feel they are “in recovery” from the lingering recession and the disappearance of so many jobs from the marketplace – who has time to worry about the environment?
While it is true that some consumers see “green” consciousness as a luxury — even a fad — our recent research shows that eight in ten people in the U.S. still feel the environment is at least a “somewhat serious” issue, and 35% see it as “very serious” — something that “should be a priority for everyone.” By contrast, just 5% say that environmental awareness is an outright fad.
Our research also shows that those who are at least moderately concerned about green issues are more receptive to messages that a product or service is environmentally friendly or has other “high-minded” benefits. For example, seven in ten environmentally attuned consumers say they consider “green” claims believable, versus less than half of those who are only somewhat concerned or feel that environmental issues are a fad. We also see significant disparities when it comes to assertions that a product is “natural” or has “health” benefits.
Those who express at least some concern about the environment also tend to fall into a segment we call Leading Edge Consumers (LECs). Regardless of the category — personal finance, technology, or dining — they are more likely to be the first ones to try new products and services, and to be trusted sources of advice for their mainstream friends. In fact, green-conscious consumers are avid social networkers who post comments or read what other users have said about a brand, product, or company. And when they are unhappy with a brand experience, it follows that they will often let others know how annoyed they are.
So who are these influential, green-friendly consumers? How can marketers find and “friend” them — and what messages will they respond to? While green consciousness extends across generations and races, we do see important patterns. In general, women seem to be more attuned than men — especially among Baby Boomers, for whom at least moderate green concern is 10 points higher among women than men. The split is more even in Gen Z and Gen Y; but in these younger cohorts, men are much more likely to have the highest level of engagement, while women tend to be more muted in their concern.
We also see slightly elevated levels of environmental consciousness among mothers as opposed to fathers. Within the parent category, working moms with children under age 18 are most attuned, helping to drive the father/mother disparity; but having children under 18 also drives up dads’ levels of concern.
Hispanics, Asians and African Americans also are relatively strongly attuned to green. Hispanics are more likely to express the highest level of concern (“strong”), while African Americans and Asians are more in the “somewhat” camp. Another group leading on being attuned to the environment are LGBT consumers, with nearly 9 in 10 saying they are at least somewhat concerned, and close to half being very anxious about the environment.
To activate their relationships with today’s new green consumers, smart marketers have plenty of tactics at their disposal — but approaching these with sensitivity is key. Here are just a few suggestions: