Goodbye tree huggers, hello brand huggers

Goodbye tree huggers, hello brand huggers

All of us reading (and writing) this article have been thinking of them as tree huggers, as a little greeny-green, niche-y group that might be nice to reach with our marketing efforts, but could also be written off because, well, they’re tree huggers!

They don’t really buy stuff unless they have to, and then they buy it from niche-y green brands, right?


According to our Eco Pulse 2013 study, it turns out tree huggers are actually “brand huggers,” and they’re the most desirable target audience for virtually any brand because they –

  • make up 24 percent of the population,
  • are opinion leaders and early adopters,
  • shop more often than the overall population,
  • have more brand loyalty than any other consumer group,
  • regularly pay more for brands they trust,
  • are materialists (!), and
  • prefer shiny new green things vs. used stuff.

AND this highly desirable consumer happens to be very green.

She researches the brands she buys, reads labels, knows what ingredients she should avoid and consume, cares about the environmental and social story of the companies she buys from, and is, in short, looking to align her values with those of the brands she buys.

“Materialism” isn’t about filling some empty space inside with stuff; it’s about creating an external expression of her internal values. It’s about connecting with a greater purpose, a larger story and literally putting her money toward creating more good in the world.

She creates meaning in her life by being a part of the meaning that companies and brands, with all their power, are creating.

So what should a brand who wants to connect with this consumer do? Well, no kidding, buy Eco Pulse – there’s a lot more detail and insight there than I can give in limited space here. And, at a high level, do these things:

  • Create an authentic, meaningful purpose for your company and brand. This can’t be just a promotion or just an NGO alliance (though it might manifest itself that way). This is honest-to-goodness, brand pillar, brand DNA stuff. You HAVE to bake it in at that level or this consumer will smell it as a marketing ploy and you won’t sway her.
  • Create an experience of the brand promise. Once you’ve figured out your brand’s higher purpose and begun to manifest that in your products, invite her in. This could look like sending her free samples, creating events she can participate in or creating an interesting online community she can be a part of. She’s experiential by nature, so leverage that.

Above all else, flip your consumer perception around and stop thinking of this segment as “green consumers.”

Start thinking of them as “the most desirable consumers” and build a brand that’s worthy of her engagement. You’ll be rewarded in the end.


Posted on

September 12, 2013

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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