For years, marketers have been exhorted to appeal to consumers’ emotions to gain increased relevance in the daily lives of their customers, leading to greater brand loyalty and increased sales.
Some recent emotional advertising has delivered powerful impact. Before the financial meltdown (remember that?), Citi launched its “Live Richly” campaign that went far beyond traditional financial services advertising. Mini Cooper’s irreverent launch campaign earned them legions of rabid fans, all bound by their shared desire to be different. “Come and get your love” is the theme song for Alltel, not “I’m calling you.”
But in the green marketing space, we usually only see a handful of emotional marketing messages. Mostly they’re grounded in fear or an appeal to “Save the planet.” Fear-based messages assume that most people believe in global warming and feel they have a responsibility to change their personal habits to reduce its threat. Our research consistently shows that around 40% of the American public doesn’t believe global warming is caused by man, so these messages won’t resonate with them. And even for those who do believe in global warming, fear can be a powerful force for apathy. Think about how many people put off writing a will – it’s a really uncomfortable thing to think about, so most people put it off because they’re afraid to confront their mortality.
Messages to “save the planet” are so broad that the average consumer can’t wrap her head around the idea. She starts thinking, “How can I help save the polar bears by changing a light bulb right here in Des Moines?”
So we wanted to more specifically put our finger on what emotional messages will resonate with green consumers and tested some statements in our soon-to-be-finished study, Green Living Pulse. We wrote messaging statements based on some of the work at makingmeaning.org that identifies 15 ways people derive meaning. We tested drivers including beauty, creation, harmony and oneness, control (health and costs), validation, community, redemption, duty, enlightenment, truth, and accomplishment. We tested these messages in four categories: energy efficiency, green homes, natural and organic foods, and personal care products.
I’m not going to give it all away here – you’ll be able to buy the report on Aug. 21 – but let’s just say we found some really interesting results. Even among green consumers, there are significant differences in what messaging resonates. For some, it’s a harmony and oneness message and for others it’s a duty message. For some, it’s a control/health message and for others it’s a validation message. And not surprisingly, motivators differed by category, even in the same consumer segment. So you can’t look at any one consumer segment and automatically assume they will be motivated by a health message for personal care products if they’re also motivated by a health message for natural and organic foods, for instance.
We’ll publish the full results on August 21, but stay tuned for more blog posts on this topic. Delivering the right emotional appeal to the right audience is truly the key to making green mainstream.