Meet Allison. Allison is a married 30-something mom of two kids under 10 years old. She is concerned about her children's health and well being, has two dogs, works full time, lives in the outskirts of a large city and considers herself to be upper middle class. Allison makes most of the purchasing decisions for food, clothes, and household products for her family.
If you asked Allison to tell you the ways she considers herself to be Eco-conscious, she would say she recycles, reuses items, likes to buy local produce from the farmer's market, and actively conserves energy and water in her home.
By all respects, Allison seems like a good candidate to buy environmentally friendly products. But ask Allison if environmental concerns fuel her purchasing, and her answer would be, "Not really."
There are many Allisons out there (as well as Alans), who make purchasing decisions and who will say they care about being environmentally aware.
So why doesn't this show up in their purchasing?
Is it the fault of companies and businesses who fail to take advantage of "green" marketing?
Or are people simply not that interested in buying Eco-friendly products?
Or, is it something else entirely, something that explains why the practice of marketing Eco-friendly items has simply never been successful?
"Green" Marketing is Not Effective
For many business and marketing agencies, it stands to reason that green marketing--the practice of marketing a business, product or service based largely on the environmental features and benefits--would be a great way to reach people like Allison, people who are already environmentally aware and would like to do more.
But by and large, green marketing doesn't work on Allison, or potential customers like her.
In fact, green marketing might be a total waste of your time and company resources.
If you are a green business owner, this may seem like bad news.
How will I reach potential customers? you ask.
Aren't I supposed to point out my product's green cred?
Does this mean there's no place in the market for my product?
The answer - unfortunately - is not clear cut. It lies in a grey area many advertisers and companies aren't talking about, because being environmentally friendly is the "in" thing, and so it makes sense that people will pay for products and services that are green.
Despite this thinking, the actual research points to a different reality.
One statistic from 2013 states that sales of green products represent less than 1% of any given purchase category!
Yet, let me assure you- you don't need to despair. There is a solution for your green-focused business. You just need to understand why people buy products - and why they aren't buying green ones.
Why People Buy
One word: Emotion.
Most companies selling green products act under the assumption that highlighting the green features and benefits on packaging, in commercials, and in their messaging will persuade people to choose their products over their non-green competition.
Market research has shown this simply isn't true. Even people who consider themselves eco-conscious won't necessarily choose a product just because it's green, even if it's better for the environment than what they normally buy.
So, what gives?
Essentially, the large majority of consumers are not confident when it comes to green purchases.
- They are confused and distrustful of product claims.
- Many are on a certain budget with little wiggle room for expensive extras, like higher priced green products.
- Most people are under the impression that green products aren't as well made or don't work as well as regular products.
Companies who try to combat the above reasons with facts, figures, statistics and information to help customers choose their product with logic forget a huge truth about how and why people buy.
People don't buy with logic. They buy with emotion.
This is why people impulse buy. This is why people enter a store with 5 items on a list and leave the store with 30 items. This is why internet marketing is so persuasive: it hits people's emotions.
Aside from the fact that green marketing doesn't change buyer behavior, there are other downsides to green marketing that business owners need to be aware of.
- Legal Issues. If a product claim does not live up to product performance, it could be grounds for a lawsuit.
- Greenwashing has soured many people toward the green industry. Many people are now suspicious that companies throwing "green" terms around or making green claims are just trying to look good.
- Green is not the main criteria for purchasing a product--brand and price are.
- Many people have negative preconceptions about Eco-friendly products, namely that they are overpriced and don't work as well as their non-green competition.
With all of this evidence in the case against green marketing, where does that leave YOU--the green business owner?
Is there any hope?
You'll be happy to hear the answer is "yes!"
There is a solid, proven way to get your product AND your message out there to your ideal customers, but it's not through green marketing.
A Different (Effective) Approach To Selling Green
You will help customers find and love your products by throwing out green marketing and instead telling your story.
A Name That Stands Out
It starts with your Brand and your product name. Essentially, YOU need to be the first thing that pops into a customer's head when they think of your product category.
When someone says "Eco Friendly Car," it's likely that "Prius" will be one of the first names that pops into people's heads. The Prius paired "Eco-friendly" and automobile together in such a way that was memorable and effective.
Now, if you already have a company name, a brand, or a collection that is Eco-friendly, you need to find a way to place your name into consumers' heads so that they think of you when they're ready to purchase the item you're selling.
If you haven't named your product yet, think carefully about a name that is unique and memorable. Avoid using words like "green," "nature," "natural," and the like in your product name because those terms are overused and vague. Think about what your product offers customers, both in terms of real life use and how it helps the environment.
A Story That "Gets Them in the Feels"
Tell THAT story. The one that made you have a burning desire to create the company or product you did, and why. Talk about the real reason this product wakes you up in the morning, excited to share it with the world. Tell how your product is good for the environment, and tie it all in with how this benefits the customer. Put your story on your packaging. Put it on your website. Make it visible so that your brand story is linked to your products, and helps your customers feel that YOUR product will benefit their lives.
This doesn't mean people are selfish and will only buy what benefits them . . . but it also does mean that. People want to know how this product will enhance their lives, make things easier, line up with their values, help them be healthy, and save them money. Notice the common factor here? It's what is good for the customer that matters most, not what's good for the environment.
Being green isn't enough.
Now, being green + being convenient? That is important to many people. Being green + saving money? That's a feature many will embrace. Being green + a better performance than the non-green competition? You bet that's important. Being green + enhancing status? Yes, this works too.
The green products that are successful are the ones that people can "show off." People want to show their eco-conscious values in a way that's visible to their family, friends, and peers. People love to tell others about the product, clothing item, skincare product, household item, or food that is so good it made them want to talk about it to everyone they know.
It Takes Time
In order for a product, business, or service to gain a following, it simply takes time. Nobody is an overnight success. Green marketing was not a magic bullet to take any product or company from zero to superstar success, and over the years it's become clear that green marketing won't be a reliable business tool for green businesses--because it doesn't work.
What works and what will make the difference between your Eco-friendly product soaring or crashing and burning is what has ALWAYS worked:
Create a product that is the best it can be.
Tell a compelling and memorable story about your company or product that allows people to feel emotion when they think about it.
Talk about the ways your product is good for the environment by working it into your overall story, message and brand.
Green + Emotion= A winning formula for your business!