A few months back I took part in a fascinating exchange on the LinkedIn group “Women Growing Green Business.” The conversation kicked off when one member of the group posted a link to Green marketer Joel Makower’s post Earth Day and the Polling of America, 2010: Me First, Planet Later.
In it, Makower dolefully detailed a number of studies indicating that “with the exception of committed environmentalists — a relative sliver of the populace — the mood (of American consumers) has switched from ‘What can I do to be helpful?’ to ‘What’s in it for me?'”
In fact, one participant, Green market researcher Wendy Cobrda of Earthsense, has gone so far as to coin a term for it. She calls it “eco-hedonism” and insists it’s not a bad thing. In her own words:
Instead of Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability — the great majority of people are motivated by Lifestyles of Hedonics and Economics, doing things that bring them pleasure and those actions are shaped in many ways by their means or economics.For example, for the longest time, I’ve been a fan of Muir Glen fire-roasted canned tomatoes. While I’m not a gourmand by any stretch, I do enjoy cooking, and even more so when what I cook brings smiles of pleasure. On a whim, I tried those tomatoes and for years now, that’s all I buy (unless I can’t get them!) Why? Because they taste good. I appreciate that they are organic, I like the mission of the company, but I come back time after time because I like how they taste.
It’s not that people don’t care. It’s just that the environment and the challenges we face as a species and as a planet are anything but simple. The average person has a very hard time grasping the importance of the issues themselves, let alone how their choices may influence those issues. Choosing a product based on its eco-friendliness involves thought patterns that may also include feelings of uncertainty and confusion – not emotions that readily lend themselves to buying.
When your product appeals to a person’s hedonistic self-interest you’re speaking to them on a super-simple level that requires little thought. We’re talking animal instincts. Great taste. Comfort. Savings. Sex appeal. It may not be spiritually enlightened, but it’s powerful stuff, and that’s where the main thrust of your marketing messages should be.
And Green messaging? Should we even bother with it?
As Green marketer Jacqueline Ottman noted in the thread,
What I believe is that people do care about the planet — that is evident– but when they go into supermarkets and put on their “shopper hats” they have to make sure that the products they buy satisfy their primary reasons for buying the products in the first place —getting clothes clean, buying nutritious and tasty food, etc. This is even more important in a recession when consumers need to ensure they are getting value for their money.This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the planet. For the entire 20 years that I have been tracking green marketing, environmental, and increasingly social, benefits have played an important secondary role in influencing purchases. (One of my colleagues coined the phrase, “The tie goes to the dolphin”.) Green then is the added source of value that can break a tie at the shelf. But, when truly integrated into the value proposition, green can enhance primary benefits —the organic produce that tastes better. That is true green marketing heaven!
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