Here’s a mind-blowing statistic for you: Nearly 90% of the American population claim to have purchased a green product.
Really? Because sales figures certainly don’t reflect that level of adoption…and other data we pull from the market on a regular basis reveals that only 65% of Americans claim to actually be searching for greener products. So what gives?
To a small degree, some consumers mis-classify what a green product actually is. We recently completed some in-home research with consumers and found a few trying to label canned goods and reusable ice packs as green products. In this same study, however, most consumers got it right – even those we call Skeptics had some organic food or a bottle of Greenworks in their homes.
So the issue really isn’t that they just don’t get it. The issue is that green marketers have been so focused on getting folks to try their products that they haven’t really put an emphasis on long-term loyalty. Getting Americans to regularly buy a green product is, in fact, asking them to make a behavior change. And like with any other behavior change, reinforcement and encouragement along the way are critical to cementing a new habit.
So as you roll forward with your marketing efforts, consider the following:
- Green product marketing efforts now need to shift from growing the marketplace to stealing share. In some categories, the battle will still be green vs. conventional, but in others, the focus may now shift to green vs. green.
- As noted above, marketing energy now also needs to shift to building loyalty and increased engagement with current customers, and creating a long-term brand and product portfolio strategy. For some marketers, it’s time to abandon trial and concentrate on shoring up long-term loyalty.
- OK, so how? Your messaging needs to become less general ‒ that is, less about awareness, and more prescriptive about what exactly needs to be done to be more sustainable. Macro messages have worked, and now people need a little micromanagement if they’re to move from awareness to action. Things like simple checklists, action steps, time commitments, materials needed, etc., will help move the needle.
- And from an engagement standpoint, find ways to connect your end buyers to a bigger movement that they actually care about. Seventh Generation’s Million Baby Crawl, Honest Tea’s Great Recycle and Method’s Vote Daisy are great examples. Not every consumer wants to connect into a bigger cause…but about 1/3 of the population does. Leverage that.
The good news is that we’ve made progress! And like with any maturing market, it’s simply time to shift gears.
Suzanne Shelton is CEO of Shelton Group, the nation’s leading marketing communications agency entirely focused in the sustainability space. Shelton Group polls Americans every quarter and uses those insights to help its clients define and leverage their sustainability stories to gain a market advantage.