For the second year, the U.S. Climate Brand Index is dominated by manufacturing and auto brands with big ad budgets, with GE retaining its top spot and Toyota retaining second place. Honda rose two places to third, one slot ahead of energy brand BP. Newcomer GM displaced rival Ford to join the U.S. “top five” for the first time.
Not surprisingly, GE, Toyota, Honda, and GM ranked in the top 25 for U.S. ad spend in 2007 and all have pushed efficiency/sustainability issues in ads. BP, for example, has rebranded itself with its “Beyond Petroleum” campaign. But that’s not to say these companies aren’t selling efficient products and making their own operations more sustainable – GM, for example, is adding what it claims is the world’s largest rooftop solar power installation to a car assembly plant in Spain. But the companies are spending big bucks to tell consumers about their initiatives.
The research, Consumers, Brands and Climate Change 2008 (PDF), explores trends in consumer attitudes and buying behaviors to brands on climate change. It was commissioned by The Climate Group, in partnership with global brand strategy and design consultancy Lippincott and UK broadcaster Sky.
Respondents were asked which brands they regarded as taking a lead in battling climate change. The list confirms for the second year running (last year’s report) that there is still significant opportunity for brand leadership and connection with consumers on climate change, as two-thirds of U.S. consumers (65 per cent) were unable to name a brand leading on the issue. Again, research showed people continue to look to mainstream brands–not niche green specialists–for climate solutions.
Other Influences on Consumer Buying Behavior
When presented with a clear choice, consumers tend to be more motivated by practical solutions that enable them to cut their individual carbon footprints (such as renewable energy, energy efficient light bulbs, “green” bank accounts, fuel efficient cars, appliances with automatic switch-off) over corporate statements and labels such as “carbon-neutral.”
The research also showed that consumers are very sensitive to negative press criticism, particularly if company claims are challenged as “greenwash.” Around 44% of people said they would definitely consider buying products or services from one retailer after reading its corporate stance, but after seeing a media report critical of those claims, buying appetite dropped by 12 percentage points.
The reverse was also true: a favorable news story in the media pushed up the number of people who would consider buying products by 6 percentage points. Membership in a non-profit organization and endorsements through campaigns were also a powerful factor: Hearing that a company was “a member of a campaign run by an independent charity, which gives people easy ways to fight climate change in their everyday lives” lifted likelihood to buy or use a product or service by an average of 5 percentage points.
Here’s a look at some other recent reports that have looked at the perceived – and actual – green value of brands.