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Make Green Marketing Work Better for Your Business

Woman Holding Recycling ContainerGreen marketing has evolved from a trend into a permanent element of the marketing landscape. However, despite its prevalence, green marketing is still most effective with environmentally conscious buyers. Green marketing efforts often fail to hook consumers who are less concerned about environmental issues or even downright skeptical of them.

A few tweaks to your green marketing strategy can help align your message with the values of buyers who would not otherwise be swayed by traditional green marketing.

Understanding your target consumers

Research in the 1990s by Jacqueline Ottman and Roper Starch Worldwide identified how environmental issues impact consumers’ purchasing decisions. From their findings, they developed five categories of consumers:

  1. True Blues — Passionate environmentalists who are four times more likely to avoid environmentally irresponsible products and six times more likely to contribute to environmental organizations. They are the most highly educated of the five groups and are comprised mostly of white women located in the South or Midwest.
  2. Greenbacks — This consumer group is most likely to demonstrate environmental beliefs with their wallets and will spend up to 22% more for green products. They are twice as likely as the average American to avoid environmentally irresponsible goods. Greenbacks make up about 5% of the U.S. population and tend to be married, white males in the West and Midwest.
  3. Sprouts — Comprising one-third of the U.S. population, Sprouts are most willing to engage in environmental activities that require minimal effort, such as curbside local recycling programs. Generally, they will not choose a green product that is more expensive than other options and are only willing to pay about 4% more for green products. They are distributed evenly across the country but have the highest median age of all five groups.
  4. Grousers — Grousers, who complain and make excuses, are the most uninformed and confused about environmental issues. Grousers make up 15% of the U.S. population and tend to believe responsibility for environmental issues rests with the government and corporations, not individuals. They grudgingly comply with environmental initiatives when forced to do so by local laws but commonly make excuses for their poor environmental practices. Grousers are also distributed evenly across the country.
  5. Basic Browns — The group of consumers least concerned with environmental issues are called Basic Browns. They often don’t believe environmental issues are truly serious, just don’t care about the issues, or deny them outright. They are the largest group of the five, encompassing 37% of the U.S. population. They tend to have the lowest incomes, lowest education levels, and disproportionately reside in the South.

Applying the GREEN Scale

So, how do you learn where your customers’ sympathies lie? The GREEN Scale is a set of six key statements that help gauge how environmental values influence buyers’ purchasing decisions based on how strongly they agree or disagree with the statements. These are the six statements:

  • It is important to me that the products I use do not harm the environment.
  • I consider the potential environmental impact of my actions when making many of my decisions.
  • My purchase habits are affected by my concern for the environment.
  • I am concerned about wasting the resources of our planet.
  • I would describe myself as environmentally responsible.
  • I am willing to be inconvenienced in order to take actions that are more environmentally friendly.

By understanding the different consumer groups described by Ottman and Roper and using the GREEN scale, marketers can pinpoint additional values that are more likely to resonate with less environmentally conscious consumers, such as cost, effectiveness, safety, and convenience.

Incorporating these values into your green marketing strategy helps align your message with buyers across a broader spectrum of environmental consciousness. Product packaging is a key marketing tool for conveying these values.

FTC Green Guide — Keeping your green marketing strategy legal

A final but critical part of your green marketing strategy is ensuring you don’t cross any legal lines. Businesses using green marketing to appeal to customers’ environmental values need to be vigilant to make sure any claims they make about the environmental qualities of a product, service, or package are accurate. The FTC offers a Green Guide that provides guidelines for marketers to avoid making deceptive or unfair claims under Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §45.

Making the most of green marketing

The best green marketing strategy is one that appeals to consumers from all levels of environmental concern, from the most passionate to the most lax. Incorporating other key values important to consumer segments less concerned with environmental issues ensures your messaging and packaging attracts buyers of all types.

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