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Breakthrough Branding for Today’s Green Market

It was Super Bowl Sunday 2004 when Sesame Street’s beloved Kermit the Frog declared “It’s Easy Being Green” in a TV commercial for Ford’s new hybrid, the Escape. Life was good, and green was growing at super speed. You couldn’t pick up a magazine or browse a bookstore without seeing a marketing message on how to “Go Green in 5 Easy Steps”. Then it happened. The 2008 economic nose dive. I remember seeing the fear in faces of the green business owners at a conference I was presenting at in San Francisco. Would green go south? Or was Advertising Age right when it said green business “defies the economic downturn”?

Sorry to say that Ad Age was a bit too optimistic about our industry. We did take a hit and there was definitely a green fall out in the business community. However, smart green marketers that were savvy to the motivations of their customers shifted their marketing messages from saving the planet to saving the people. Many called that shift  “Me first, planet later”. Boy, did that create a rift in the green biz community.

The truth is if you want to “greenstream” your product or service, you need to go beyond the choir and bring your message from the planetary to the personal. That means if you want to reach mainstream America, you need to dig deep into their real motivations for going green. Rarely, it’s about saving the polar bears (sorry, Nissan).

Know Your Tribe

Before developing your marketing strategy, first you have to know who you are selling to. What’s your target market and what are their values? Their motivations? This may seem like a duh, but I can’t tell you how often I see misplaced marketing messages. So let’s start here…

The consumer base is made up of what I call Shades of Green. Deep Greens (19% of US population) are the most environmentally active segment of the market. They are the most willing to pay a premium for green products and are more forgiving when it comes to efficacy. Medium Greens (33% of US population) embrace environmentalism, but more slowly. They are practical and like to see the results of what they do, so are more likely to buy green products that make sense in the long run. Light Greens (16% of US population) are generally unconcerned about environmental issues. They have a “wait and see” attitude and will only buy green products if they are economically equal, or better yet less than conventional products and services. After all, shouldn’t green cost less if you are using less ingredients/supplies/parts?

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One thought on “Breakthrough Branding for Today’s Green Market

  1. Great article Carolyn. I especially like your section about “Go Beyond the Choir”.
    I am a firm believer in the value of constant and consistent education on environmental issues- both to expand the base and to solidify it. Preaching to the choir only gets you so far in any movement. Earth Day cannot be the only time that green companies and green marketers promote the cause for environmental stewardship and carbon reduction. It must be a part of one’s core strategies and tenets.

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