If life were simple, there would be one kind of “green consumer” buying all things green. Unfortunately, life isn’t simple. There are multiple audiences who buy various green products. They don’t respond to the same messages, so there’s no “one size fits all” strategy. The good news: You can reach your audiences with the right messages.
For example, in one of our Eco Pulse studies, we tested how various audiences reacted to cleaning products. We found that ingredients carried a lot of weight — particularly “all natural” ingredients. But when we broke the respondents down into groups based on the features they gravitated to, we found that about half the population fell into a segment we could call the Clorox/Kills Germs segment (in other words, their main criteria for product selection was the brand and the efficacy), about 30 percent made up the All Natural Ingredients segment and the remaining 20 percent made up the Low Price segment.
Or take another category, Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs. Three audiences we tested — True Believers, Concerned Moms and Cautious Conservatives — have all purchased these bulbs, but for entirely different reasons. True Believers did so because they wanted to save the planet. Cautious Conservatives wanted to save a few bucks on their electric bill. And Concerned Moms did so because they were worried about their kids’ futures.
Speaking of Concerned Moms, we recently held focus groups with various segments of the population to discuss their thoughts on energy and water conservation and react to a host of TV spots with energy conservation messages. Two of these focus groups were Concerned Moms. What did we learn about them?
Concerned Moms are, well, concerned. We asked all groups the opening question: “When I say the phrase, ‘our country’s energy supply,’ what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?” True Believers and Cautious Conservatives went straight for literal definitions — “oil,” “gas,” “coal,” “solar,” “wind,” etc. But Concerned Moms focused immediately on their worries, saying things like, “not enough…we’re wasting it…scary.” Clearly, Concerned Moms are already emotionally involved when it comes to energy issues. As marketers, that means we’ve already won half the battle: It takes both an emotional and rational appeal to move consumers to action.
Concerned Moms respond to facts delivered directly. They liked TV spots that were down to earth and matter of fact. Though they laughed out loud and identified with the frazzled mom in a Rheem tankless water heater spot, they didn’t rank it as their favorite. And though they cooed over the cute monkeys in the GE Geospring Hot Water Heater ad, it didn’t move them to want to buy. What worked were some of the utility company spots that featured employees or regular looking people giving specific tips very matter of factly.
Concerned Moms are particularly worried about jobs. They also responded well to the mention of jobs in the spot from America’s Oil and Natural Gas. That makes sense — they’re nurturers and lionesses. They don’t want to see any family without a bread winner.
Concerned Moms are most motivated by their kids, but there’s a line that marketers should NOT cross. That would be the Line of Guilt. Positive messaging about future generations worked really well. Guilt messaging – such as “you’d better change your ways today or else your kids and grandkids will pay the price” — really fell flat. It insulted them. A representative comment to one such ad: “I’ve bent over for my kids… How dare they tell me I haven’t done enough?”
So, if you’re trying to reach Moms — and they’re great targets for anything tied to a utility bill as they’re the ones writing the monthly checks — keep the following in mind:
- Humor works, but only if the humor IS the point of the ad. You can’t mix in rational facts alongside a humor message. The facts will be forgotten.
- Specific, manageable tips from real, down-to-earth people work.
- Promises of protecting future generations and protecting jobs/family work really well…but only if they’re positive. Guilt and fear will have the exact opposite effect.
The moral of the story? Know thy product, and know thy audience.
Suzanne Shelton is president and CEO of Shelton Group, an advertising agency located in Knoxville, Tennessee. The agency conducts four proprietary annual consumer opinion studies – Eco Pulse, Energy Pulse, Utility Pulse and Green Living Pulse.