Successful marketing is all about approach, but how do you market something while simultaneously downplaying what are typically its selling points? Very skillfully.
Understanding the "green" image
In the paper "Avoiding Green Marketing Myopia," authors Jacquelyn A. Ottman, Edwin R. Stafford, and Cathy L. Hartman state: "Green marketing must satisfy two objectives: improved environmental quality and customer satisfaction."
Those committed to green living might find improved environmental quality satisfying in and of itself, but not all consumers feel that way. Solving the challenges of green marketing means first recognizing what drives consumer hesitations. Some consumers feel going green is:
A hassle – Even something supposedly simple, like recycling, is still a challenge for many consumers. Upworthy states, "The top reason people said they don't recycle is really more of a failure of state and local governments for not making recycling more available to them." Also on the list, not knowing what is recyclable or not.
"Hippie-dippie" – For some, there's simply a disconnect between their lifestyle/values and the green movement.
Not important – On the Internet especially, you can always find someone who will to tell you whatever you want to hear. Climate change deniers certainly don't make green marketers' jobs any easier.
Too expensive – Many simply are not willing to spend extra for the sake of being green, and even those interested in green living would rather not spend more. According to RetailMeNot, "Of those inclined to purchase environmentally friendly products, three in five (61%) would only buy green items if they cost the same or less than non-eco-friendly products, while three in five (60%) consumers would be motivated to purchase a green product if a cost savings were involved." Cost savings mattered more, reports PR Newswire, than the quality of the product, or it being linked to a good cause.
Clearly with these consumers, focusing on green attributes won't have an impact. So what will?
Camouflaging the green
In her book Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld shares recipes designed to sneak fruits and vegetables into picky kids' food. Just as her children don't know there are carrots and spinach in Mom's brownies, green marketers need to promote their green products by focusing on the chocolaty goodness non-green consumers want.
This strategy supports the current marketing climate of consumer-centricity, born of social media. "It’s all about them," say social analytics experts at NetBase. "You’ve got to connect with them human to human, with individualized messaging based on what they care about."
Here are some points to focus on:
Health/wellness – According to The Guardian, "The No 1 reason why consumers buy greener products is not to "save the planet" but to protect their own health." Focus on the health benefits of your eco-friendly ingredients, rather than their sustainability, and you'll make the sale.
Gender awareness – Stafford and Hartman note that some green initiatives, like reusable shopping bags and water bottles, come across as feminine to some men, so it's important to find a way to appeal to masculine sensibilities as well. "The 'Don’t Mess With Texas' anti-littering campaign is a pitch-perfect example of linking environmental and macho values. The campaign reduced roadside trash by 72% in five years while bumper stickers on the pickup trucks of young men emphasized this message."
Incentives – Even when buying products they already want and love, consumers comparison-shop, wait for special offers, and even haggle. If you want them to try something they're not convinced of, you've got to give a little to get a little. "Green shouldn't be thrust upon the public through initiatives without incentives," green lifestyle expert Danny Seo told Fox Business. "If you want people to buy into a program, or convert to green living, they need a reason."
The green movement has come a long way, but there's still a lot that needs to change if we really want to make a difference. If consumers aren't sold on going green for the sake of the environment, it's okay to market to them in whatever ways work, even if it feels a little sneaky. The future of the planet may depend on it.
I would only add that the future of us, humans, may depend on it. "The greatest and most endangered species in the Amazon rainforest is not the jaguar or the harpy eagle," says Mark Plotkin, "It's the isolated and uncontacted tribes."