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Companies Going Green Should Ignore Green Consumer

bike1.jpgA company wishing to go green should focus on the green consumer, right? Not so, argues Steve Bishop, global lead of Design for Sustainability at IDEO, in a Harvard Business Review article. For a company that wants to go green, the green consumer niche is almost irrelevant.

For companies large and small, marketing green has proven difficult for a variety of reasons. Most consumers seek to satisfy their personal needs before considering those of the planet. Green for green’s sake products often don’t meet the basic needs that most people require from their products. And small, streamlined green brands that truly appeal to the environmentalist consumer can’t reach the mainstream, according to Bishop.

As a result, most companies get stuck somewhere in the middle. When their marketing plan doesn’t work all that well, they simply take out a bigger megaphone. Hence the greenwashing epidemic we have today. So while the traditional marketing answer to the question, Should we market to the green consumer? has been yes, the better answer, according to this article, is this: Instead of focusing on a green niche, focus on green behaviors that everyone can aspire to.

Consumers want solutions to their day-to-day problems that also make sense for the environment. So, according to the article, companies should stop trying to appeal to green consumers by building green myths into the products they have and start creating real products that tell their environmental story for them.

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3 thoughts on “Companies Going Green Should Ignore Green Consumer

  1. I totally agree. People don’t want to drastically change their lives just to make it a little more “green”. And why should they, really? I mean, people do everyday all the things they need to do everyday, right? Most people aren’t just randomly or arbitrarily choosing each day what they want to do or what products to use or by which methods they do them. So, marketing to them with that assumption (by trying to sell them a product that doesn’t even come close to fitting their current routine or process) isn’t going to come across to them as something they should by. If you want to develop a “green’ product, FIRST make it something useful, practical (maybe something that could effectively replace something else they already regularly use with similar results), then find out a way to make it “green” and still effective… that’s the first step.

  2. Greenwashing is clearly an issue, but the striking component I’m seeing besides every type of company joining on the global green bandwagon trying to get good green p.r., is the issue that every company or corporation is ‘branding’ their initiative with green logos and slogans intact. Much like after 9/11, all of the news agencies branded and named every Middle East military offensive or attack (e.g. “Beyond Baghdad”). Green is being overbranded. In just the past six months several corporations have announced “green” campaigns. Rather than position these as an internal initiative tied to company culture, they have been branded with logos, taglines and media support. For example, the following is a quick list of new campaigns launched over a one week period, some are within the same corporate family and others bear the same title. (Readers of this probably have several examples, as well.)

    NBC Corporate “Green is Universal”
    KGW Channel 8 (NBC Affiliate) “Go Green”
    KPTV Channel 12 “Going Green”
    Eagles NFL Team “Go Green”

    I believe most corporations have taken the wrong path in branding their message rather than making it a corporate “values” or corporate “responsibility” proposition. Off hand, Nike and Patagonia are companies that appear to be doing it well.
    Recently, the Build It Green building certification program in Colorado realized the error of incorporating the word “green” into the program brand. They have developed consumer messaging around the premise that the program should be called “Build it Better.”

    That’s saying something about the mis-use and over-exposure of green.

  3. I was about to market a metal working fluid that is 98>% Soybean oil and .01>% Molybdenum that has several advantages. It is cheaper to purchase than competitiors, works better, allows machines to work up to 4X faster, uses less lubricant and increases tool life from 10 to 20 times. It is also harmless to workers and smells good. It will work everything from Aluminum to Titanium and will cut and deep draw virtually anything and once you’re done with it the oil can be burned (after filtering) in boilers or sold to a bulk oil dealer. Cost savings from increased prodcution, less lubricant and no disposal fees are approximately 30% of line production costs. I can’t give it away because it’s green. The same patent pending process works on Petroleum oil so I’m seriously considering switching to petroleum so I can make sales. Sales reps, engineers and excutives run screaming from the room when you say your product is green, Quite frankly my experience is that it is better to be a successful polluter than a failed green product. The only difference is the green which ensures you won’t get sales. Go figure.

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