Brand matters

I suppose the headline of this post is a bit of a, “duh.”  We all know brands matter…that’s why we spend so much money building and defending them.

In all the discussions and theories, though, around why consumers choose green products, there’s little discussion of brand.  And our soon-to-be-published Green Living Pulse study reveals that there is, in fact, a big correlation.  There’s also a triumph of brand over initial gut-reaction.  Here’s the story:

We preceded our Green Living Pulse study with focus groups and, knowing from our Eco Pulse study that advertising and packaging are the primary source of information for consumers about what’s green and what’s not, we tested several TV commercials for green products and packages as well.  In particular, the ad we showed for Clorox GreenWorks elicited several negative comments.  Not about the product – about the brand name.  If I were to show you a movie of clips from these focus groups, you’d hear the following:

“It’s Clorox – how could it be green?…I would have found it more believable if they hadn’t used the Clorox name…When I think of Clorox I think of bleach!  Something I have to wear gloves to use can’t be green?”

So, the focus groups reactions would lead you to believe that a brand name – particularly one associated with chemicals – could actually hurt a green product’s credibility.  Interestingly, though, and in a rare case of quantitative contradicting qualitative research work, our Green Living Pulse study shows exactly the opposite. In the survey we presented actual product photo close-ups of:

  • Clorox® Green Works natural all-purpose cleaner
  • Scrubbing Bubbles Nature’s Source® All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Seventh Generation™ Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner
  • Method® Multi-Surface natural all-purpose cleaner

We asked participants to choose which natural all-purpose cleaning product they would most likely buy, and here’s how it panned out:

  • 43% would buy Clorox® Green Works
  • 20% would buy Scrubbing Bubbles
  • 14% wouldn’t buy any of them
  • 14% would buy Seventh Generation
  • 8% would buy Method

When asked why they chose the way they did, the two most common answers for both Clorox and Scrubbing Bubbles were “I trust/am familiar with brand” (45% for both) and “I currently use this” (16% for both).

The moral of the story?  Consumers are still really anxious about their ability to make a good green choice.  They’re worried they’ll buy the wrong thing and, when forced to choose, they go back to the names they know and trust.  So, if you have a trusted brand name, explore rolling your green products under it.  If you’re a newer green product without a well known brand, put your marketing dollars into building the brand.

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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