Marketing green to the wired generation

Marketing green to the wired generation

We recently completed the research phase of a marketing plan for a client who engages millions of consumers each week through their existing lines of business. The client will be launching a new initiative in the green products space; therefore, a component of the research focused on the role or importance of media when learning about green products.

One of the age segments we focused on was 18 – 24 year-olds.  When imagining how this segment consumes media or gathers information, one would guess that the Internet – and, likely, social media sites – would be the number one resource.  Or at least second.  Or definitely no lower than third.

How about fourth?

According to our research, this wireless, hyper-connected, rather-text-than-talk age group relies on ads, product labels and news coverage for its green product information before performing a search on the Internet.  So what gives?  Is this a harbinger of the eventual demise of the Internet?  Hardly.

The commonality between the first three mediums is that they are relatively passive or low involvement.  Ads and news, through any channel, do not require the recipient to do anything – except of course listen, read and absorb.  Product labels may fit in the same category if green claims are on the front selling panel (our survey did not differentiate between a selling panel and an ingredient panel).

Another finding from our research is that about the same number of respondents said they learn about green products from friends or relatives as from an Internet search.  We presume that a sizable proportion of these recommendations come from social media sites.  Again, a lower incidence than we would have thought.

In general, this age group is interested in green products but is not actively pursuing information on green products as much as we might believe.  An Internet search can only be categorized as active.  And word-of-mouth (online or not) MAY be active.  Over time, we’ve all gotten unsolicited advice from friends – this would hold true in green products.

So what are the implications here?  For starters, green claims are not enough.  Nearly all consumers, not just 18-24 year-olds, want products and services that satisfy universal needs such as comfort, wellness and convenience.  Positioning green products within those parameters will elevate interest and drive consumption. As importantly, these claims and benefits must be actively promoted with the same diligence and discipline that traditional products require.  The idea that social marketing will simply create gravity for green products does not hold water.  Old-fashioned advertising and well-designed packaging are critical and should be the first steps in a green marketing program to ensure success.  Even if your target is the wired generation.

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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