Joel Makover published recently an interesting analysis of the different types of green consumers according with their purchasing behavior, lifestyle, demographics, psychographics, date of birth or just where they live (I made up the last two!). The Makover categorization reads like the four stages of a new relationship: Committed, Conflicted, Confused and Cynical.
His simplified categorization into four groups is interesting and easier to understand from an intuitive standpoint than the segmentation from the Natural marketing Institute Naturalites or The Roper Organization Grousers. At EverQuest Design we looked at these simplified categories with demographics and psychographics attributes to identify market potential and how they could be reached. We have applied this methodology with clients such as Cirque du Soleil to define target markets for green or recycled products (bags and accessories) they wished to develop, launch and market.
First and foremost marketers should be made aware that even in the best scenario green consumers only represent 45% of total markets. At least half of consumers just do not care about global warming; the environment, recycling and possibly never will. There is probably no amount of information that would change their mind about global warming short of actual icebergs floating off the coast of Florida. That's the bad news about green consumers market potential.
How about the other half who do care about sustainability? The good news is that true green consumers (15-20%) are willing to pay more for green products and are positive influencers to other segments. For the people who have read the The Tipping Point from Malcolm Gladwell (2 million copies and counting) you could look at the Committed Segment (see Makover) of green consumers as positive influencers and mavens. These consumers are found roaming green and sustainability blogs (TreeHugger, Greenbiz) when they are not writing on their own blog. They influence others through their actions and transmit and share information on all aspects of sustainability from clean energy to composting or promoting a ban on single-use plastic bags. The Committed in the Makover categories are the strongest environmental advocates.
The Conflicted and Confused green consumers represent softer segments that tend to be on the fence and can quickly convert to Cynical when confronted with blatant greenwashing. The best ways to reach green consumer vary according to product categories and industry.
Our experience in reaching and marketing successfully to green consumers is based on a simple formula. Green consumers look for Green-Value attributes in a product. To apply a sometimes overused but still effective approach: Does your product or service allow me to reduce, reuse or recycle the earth's resource to live a more sustainable life? Consumers intuitively apply the Green-Value Test to any product claiming to be green and vote with their dollars. From clean energy (using less fossil fuel) to laundry detergent(biodegradable) or recycled packaging there is an evaluation in the consumers' mind about the green claim and its actual effect on the environment. Obviously green claims and a more reliable eco labeling system is necessary to minimize greenwashing but consumers are not as gullible as some companies seem to think.
As eco-seals proliferate, so do doubts: The Wall Street Journal recently published an article stating that "It's too easy to be green", The Wall Street Journal, backs it up by citing the fact there are about 300 "eco-labels" in the marketplace, competing to be the environmental equivalent of a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. The result: increasing confusion and cynicism among consumers about the veracity of green marketing promises and a growing need for government's regulation setting standard. Eco labeling should enable consumers to ascertain with confidence the Green-Value of a product.
What does it really mean to be green? Is having some recycled content enough, and if so, how much? Is something biodegradable still green if it travels a thousand miles to reach shelves? And if a green product doesn't perform as well as its non-green peers, is it really preferable," asks the article.
We must caution marketers that selling products to the elusive green consumer is never easy. The challenge lies in being able reach the green consumer through green info hubs and passes the Green-Value Test. We have successfully marketed to green consumers by focusing on reaching the Committed where ever they are (Green blogs) and reaching out with true Green-Value product propositions. The Green and eco-product market has tremendous potential for marketers willing to be creative both in product design as in marketing strategies.