What Green Gap?

I’m fond of starting talks about green marketing with a refuting of the claims made in the New York Times and greenbiz.com earlier this year that “green marketing is dead.” I point to trending data from our Eco Pulse study that reveals 69% of the American population is searching for greener products — which is up from 64% in 2010 and 60% in 2009. I then walk through the categories in which people are seeking greener products and show lots of big numbers for lots of different categories.

And then I say something like, “But we all know that’s just seeking – actual purchasing numbers are much lower. Let’s talk about why.” I get a lot of head nods.  We all agree, it seems, that there’s a giant chasm between interest and action when it comes to buying green products.

Um, except that there’s not.

We just performed a custom study for the members of our Inner Circle group which looks at green product performance and price barriers. Our goal was to quantify how big of a perceived problem these issues actually are and whether they’re stopping folks from buying again. In a series of set-up questions to gauge actual purchases, we found that 90% of the American population claims to have bought a green product.

So, 69% claim to be searching for greener products and 90% claim to have bought them.

In the Food and Beverage category, 38% are searching and 40% say they’ve purchased.

In Paper Products, 46% are searching and exactly the same number say they’ve bought.

In other categories we do see a slight gap –  in personal care, for instance, it’s 37% searching vs. 28% who say they’ve bought. And in energy we do see a very real gap – 40% say they’re searching for greener energy sources and only 8% say they’ve bought.

My point – and, frankly, our revelation – about all this is:  the gap we’re trying to close now is not about seeking vs. buying. It’s trial vs. loyalty. What we’re seeing is that Americans have largely tried a green product or two, but they’re not sticking with it. Sometimes it’s because of perceived performance problems, sometimes it’s price, sometimes it’s other reasons. Bottom line: Most manufacturers and their ad agencies aren’t engaging consumers in true behavior change, nor are they building brand loyalty for their green products. That’s what’s needed now.

We wrapped our brains around the loyalty/behavior change piece earlier this year and began working with a simple – but not easy – formula for our clients (see below). So far this formula has given us a road map to build strategies and creative that actually engage the consumer for the long-term.  Try it and see how it works for you.


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.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *