As we saw over the holidays, green – the environment kind – is figuring into consumers’ spending decisions. More than ever, companies are positioning products as environmentally-friendly. And why not, research says adding green to a marketing message can increase sales (12 percent of U.S. adults are willing to pay extra for consumer electronics that use less energy or come from a company that is environmentally friendly, according to recent research).
Still, more than a few companies have encountered serious pitfalls in marketing themselves as greener or green. In fact, a recent study found that of 1,018 common consumer products ranging from toothpaste to caulking to shampoo to printers, randomly surveyed, 99 percent were guilty of greenwashing.
To make matters worse, seven in ten Americans either “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that when companies call a product “green” (meaning better for the environment), it is usually just a “marketing tactic,” according to a recent survey.
The first rule is to know your customer and understand how much they know. Whirlpool’s marketing of CFC-free refrigerators faced hurdles when it became evident that customers didn’t know what CFCs were.
Companies also need to be transparent. Consumers must believe in the legitimacy of the product and the claims a company is making.
Consumers need to feel empowered and feel that by buying a certain product, they can make a difference.
The last two rules are to reassure the consumer that green doesn’t mean a compromise in quality nor an unacceptable spike in price.