Many brands have made great progress in their social responsibility but are hesitant about promoting their green claims, primarily out of fear of antagonizing the base of eco-enthusiasts. Although these brands have made great progress, they are far from being carbon-neutral. For brand managers in this quandary, it is important to be aware of the different shades of green.
First, not all green consumers are alike. On one side, there are "dark green" consumers or the proverbial "tree huggers," who tend to hold manufacturers and brands to a more black-and-white standard. On the other side, there are "light green" consumers or Conscious Consumers--think of Whole Foods shoppers with their SUVs in the parking lot. Conscious consumers represent the vast majority and the mainstreaming of green, and therefore the bigger opportunity for marketers and the green movement in general.
In many ways, the mainstream conscious consumer is truly the ideal consumer. They care about the health of the planet and the health of their families, and are willing to alter their behavior to do something about it.
As a customer, they tend to be more loyal, influence family and friends, have a higher income and show a willingness to spend more for products with meaningful environmental and health claims. To effectively connect with the conscious consumer, it is important to remember that green marketing is a shared-values opportunity, and as such, conscious consumers tend to be more receptive to sponsorships.
As with other cause-based marketing, marketers have the opportunity to create an endearing relationship with their target consumer similar to that of a sponsor of a favorite sports team. Another opportunity to connect with conscious consumers is by featuring meaningful environmental or health claims.
However, marketers must be careful not to overstate or mislead their green credentials. Conscious consumers value honesty and transparency, and as influencers want to know what steps companies are taking to be good stewards of our environment and local communities. Marketers have the opportunity to open a dialogue with consumers and work with them, allowing manufacturers and consumers to walk together on a path toward a greener and more sustainable future.
To effectively accomplish this, many companies fall into three distinct strategic buckets in terms of their marketing, according to marketing and sustainability consultant, Bob Gower:
o Marketing Sustainability: Used by companies selling green products and concepts
o Marketing with Sustainability: Used by companies to promote their green efforts to enhance their brand
o Sustainable Marketing: Brands and marketers utilize marketing tools (product, price, placement and promotion) to help build a sustainable economy (people, planet, profit)
These brands and marketers are sending a very strong message to the general population that sustainability is the right way to go. In fact, according to a recent Edelman good purpose study, 68% of consumers surveyed said they would remain loyal to a brand during a recession as long as it supports a good cause.
The environment topped the list with 88% of respondents saying it was important to them. Even more interesting, 55% of consumers in the study said they would buy from a brand that supports a good cause even if it isn't the cheapest one available.
These trends are great news for socially responsible businesses, as they show that a sense of moral responsibility will always play a role in purchases, no matter what the economic climate. Who says it's not easy being green?