Kermit the frog may have had it right— “It’s not easy being green”. There is a lot to consider when creating sustainable marketing products and programs. It is not simply adding “green” to your brand platform or announcing that you support a worthy cause.
Marketing “green” is very different than marketing mainstream products. The products are held to higher standards, judged not only on the product’s effectiveness but also on delivering against societal and environmental responsibilities. When marketing “green” total dedication— from the initial stages of developing the product through to when the product is ultimately recycled or finished by the consumer must be examined against these considerations while still delivering the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Green needs to flow through the very veins of an organization demonstrating a full commitment to be credible.
Here are some guidelines on how to market “green” products effectively:
- Make sure your product works. Ensure your product competitively delivers on both traditional and eco-friendly benefits. If the product doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter how “green” it is. There exists no value.
- Be genuine in your sustainability quest. Fulfill the sustainability message throughout your entire product’s lifecycle—from sourcing of ingredients to the recycling process.
- Strengthen your core. Corporate social responsibility needs to be at the core of your company’s business philosophy permeating the supply chain all the way through to treating employees fairly. Take for example Walmart who has pledged to reduce their carbon footprint yet is getting sued for employee discrimination.
- Live and market transparently. Consumers have come to develop a strong relationship with sustainable companies and brands. They demand transparency. Seventh Generation got into trouble with their baby wipes product when they changed the size of the packaging to have less wipes per package and did not effectively communicate the change to their consumers. Consumers felt “cheated” and lost faith in the company, which took some time to rebuild.
- Eliminate the green pricing gap. The high price of many of the sustainable products discourages consumers from purchasing and actually can be perceived as a sustainability tax or upcharge. Eliminating or reducing the price barrier helps to dispel the notion that green products are not just for the elite and will encourage more people to consume better-for-the-environment products.
- Don’t force the consumer to make big tradeoffs—whether it is price, performance, convenience or a noisy package. Remember Sun Chips? Most consumers have not proven that they are willing to make significant sacrifices.
- Have patience. Most environmentally friendly consumer behavior requires behavioral changes and behavioral change takes time. Generation Y and Millennial consumers are more apt to embrace this change faster as they are not breaking habits and re-learning new ones. As more and more companies are jumping on the green bandwagon and eliminating some of the barriers, change will evolve quicker to help shape this shift towards a more sustainable future.