2 Green Marketing Fails And Where They Went Wrong

Green products and initiatives are already a tough sell for many audiences, but marketers make it harder when they ignore or assume facts, or are simply unaware of certain dos and don’ts.

From over-estimating product worth to overestimating one’s own awesomeness, two green marketing campaigns which could have performed better follow – along with ways you can learn from their mistakes. Hopefully these lessons will prevent your campaign from landing on a similar “let’s review where they went wrong” list!

Clorox “Green Works” Line

In 2008, Clorox unveiled Green Works, a line of cleaning products to compete with the likes of Method and Seventh Generation. 

With an endorsement from Sierra Club, and list of eco-friendly product ingredients on the label, Clorox believed their new natural and organic products were worth a premium price. But consumers didn't feel the same way.

Clorox failed to recognize that "green" isn't something most consumers are willing to pay more for. Studies have shown customers are more likely to pick an eco-friendly product over a non eco-friendly one if they have the same price. 

Marketers need to be aware of such studies. They also need to have a clear understanding of their audience, and what they want from brands. Social analytics software is one way they gather insights on consumer sentiment, to know how to market their product without having to change course later. And “The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Social Listening Platforms, Q1 2016” report evaluates the 12 most significant enterprise social listening platform providers, including Brandwatch, Cision, Clarabridge, Crimson Hexagon, NetBase, Networked Insights, Oracle, Prime Research, Salesforce, Sprinklr, Synthesio, and Sysomos. “This report shows how each provider measures up and helps B2C marketing professionals make the right choice.”

Clorox would have benefited from using one of those tools. Instead, after declining sales, Clorox eliminated the premium price on their Green Works line at the beginning of 2013.

Phillips “EarthLight” CFL Bulb

Phillips’ EarthLight was an energy-efficient CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulb. Introduced in 1994, EarthLight was everything the ecology movement is about.

However, the bulb came in an unclear package and had a bungle-some shape that made it incompatible with almost every conventional lamp at the time. With all the energy-saving benefits, this didn’t really bother the “deeply green” consumers. But to mainstream consumers, EarthLight didn’t justify its $15 price, nor the cost of new compatible lamps, especially when compared to the versatile 75-cent incandescent bulbs they were already using.

Green products need to be easy to integrate, or no amount of marketing will inspire wide adoption. If you’re a company, you must be sure you’re “eliciting the stories from your target audience that lead to insights, instead of making assumptions around what they want.” And as design and innovation firm, Altitude, shares - the typical research that goes in to understanding a consumer segment ahead of even talking to your target audience (which is also essential) is anything but (typical) and can include, though is not limited to:

* Competitor info

* Thought leadership

* Customer surveys and other path to purchase data

* Company mission and benchmark info

* Organizational structure and key stakeholders

Previous attempts at innovation

* Obstacles that get in the way of a specific team’s objective

* Obstacles that get in the way of the company’s overall objective

* Current appetite for innovation (stay relevant or change the game, and everything in between)

But back to Phillips. 

In 2000, Phillips reintroduced EarthLight as “Marathon” with an emphasis on its five-year life-span. Marathon had a design that featured not just a nice new look but also the versatility seen in incandescent bulbs. This, coupled with the 20% savings in cost promise, and the credibility provided by the Energy Star seal on the package, saw a 12% surge in sales.

Is this something they could have discovered much sooner with the right research? Certainly. 

So the lesson here (and overall) is this: When designing your green product and campaign, you need to consider mainstream consumers as well as the die-hard green ones, and sort out a way to satisfy both, if that’s your target audience. Or be prepared to either narrow that focus to capture a piece of the market, or throw something you’re “pretty sure they’ll want” out there and lose lots of money.

2 comments about "2 Green Marketing Fails And Where They Went Wrong".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Gurumantra Khalsa from Nutrition News, July 21, 2016 at 9:14 p.m.

    You distinguish a very powerful insight. Expanding the conversations to include internal and external audiences offers ample feedback on messaging, media and mindset. Companies often forget that their reputaions exist in their customers' experience. Engaging them leads to new ideas, markets and process improvements. Seems obvious doesn't it? 

  2. carolyn parrs from Mind Over Markets, July 22, 2016 at 12:53 a.m.

    Hi Mary, You are on the right track here. Just need to point out a generalization you made that "Green isn't something that most consumers are willing to pay more for". That just isn't true. We do it all day long with brands like Seventh Generation and Method. As a matter of fact, when Clorox Green Works sales took a nose dive after the 2008 market crash, their brands grew steadily. Why? Because companies like Seventh Gen know that green is a deep "value" of their customers and for years they have cultivated that. Green isn't just a label to them but a lifestyle.
    In green marketing, we call that segment of the population "deep greens" and they are about 19% of the US population. That obviously was not Green Works target customer so when the economic crunch happened, they bailed. I am in agreement with you though that if you can combine ecology, economy and efficacy in a green product, that is a definite competitive advantage. This Green Marketing Minute explains this idea here: 
    Respectfully, Carolyn Parrs, Mind Over Markets, Women Of Green

Next story loading loading..